PHOENIX, NY – What some see as a dinosaur may in fact be the future of tourism in this area.
New York State Canal Corporation Director Carmella Mantello and Village of Phoenix Mayor Anthony Fratto joined representatives from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and other state and local officials on Tuesday to announce the completion of waterfront improvements to Henley Park, North and Lock islands.
“I think so many folks sometimes take for granted the canal system and kind of look at it as this aging dinosaur. But, what we’ve seen firsthand, we’ve seen the Phoenixes of the world use it as the lifeline to their community,” Mantello said. “We’re really proud to be a partner with Phoenix.”
“Our canal system plays a critical role in the economic revitalization of our community and of the tourism industry all over Oswego County,” Mayor Fratto agreed. “These improvements to the Phoenix waterfront create a new dynamic in our community and increases the utilization of our canal and waterways, which in turn drives business growth.”
He thanked the Canal Corporation, village board of trustees, administrator Jim Hayes, the village’s clerk/treasurer and all the DPW employees who worked on the project.
The improvement projects, located near Oswego Canal Lock 1, include the enhancement of the boat and kayak launching facilities on North Island; shoreline stabilization; and trail improvements on Lock Island.
Additionally, the Bridgehouse is being painted.
The $45,000 grant from the New York State Canal Corporation was funded through the Erie Canal Greenway Grant Program and was matched by the village with in-kind services.
Additional interpretive signage and trail improvements were funded through another $10,000 grant from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.
That grant also provided for recreational brochures, crosswalk striping and four other signs.
First and foremost the director said, “I want you all to know that I was in Larkin’s Restaurant (near the site of the ceremony). I have to tell you, they have the most incredible blueberry pancakes!”
“It’s all about partnerships. The village of Phoenix is typical of communities all along the canal that continue to embrace this incredible historic and natural resource and make it the centerpiece of their revitalization and tourism efforts,” Mantello said. “These grants help to build on those investments by promoting additional public access, amenities and development along the canal to help revitalize Upstate New York.”
There are 230 communities that are turning the canal into the front door for economic revitalization and waterfront revitalization, she said.
It’s not always about money, she said.
“You need people with a vision, like Mayor Fratto, on where do we want to protect open space, where do we want recreational amenities, where do we want economic development?” she said. “And, the two Es go hand in hand, environmental protection and economic development and your mayor knows that, so hats off to Mayor Fratto.”
This, Mantello said, is a nationally significant area.
“Two years ago we did an economic impact study. It showed that over $380 billion is generated annually through tourism to communities and businesses all across the canal system,” she said.
The Phoenix project is one of 54 projects state wide.
Usage of the canal system was up this past season, the director said.
The poor economic climate may have helped the canal with people looking for things to do on vacation closer to home in Central New York, she noted.
“Millions of people are utilizing the canal, whether it be on the water or on the land. And, I really think the economics played to our advantage,” she said. “We encourage people to really recognize what’s in our own backyard. We really have a national treasure right here.”
They had more than 350 events along the canal this year; there were only 40 events just five years ago.
The canal isn’t just a part of the past or just an engineering marvel, Mantello said. “It’s part of our future,” she added.
“The village of Phoenix is an important gateway to the Oswego Canal. These improvements are critical for inviting residents and visitors to take full advantage of their waterfront,” Beth Sciumeca, executive director of the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor, added in a prepared statement.
“This project is a sound investment in Oswego County’s infrastructure and will attract tourism and new business, creating jobs in the process. I look forward to seeing great results out of these improvements,” Congressman Bill Owens said in the same press release.
“The Canal Corporation, the village of Phoenix and everyone who contributed to the revitalization of this section of the canal project are to be commended for the collaborative effort and the hard work that was done on this project,” Assemblyman David Townsend continued in the release.
“Over the past several years, the village of Phoenix has begun the process of revitalizing itself into a prosperous canal community. We have made great strides to gather community support and obtain funding from a variety of sources,” Fratto told the large crowd on hand in the park overlooking the waterway. “The Erie Canal Greenway Grant Program has provided a significant amount of financial assistance to help our community get that much closer to realizing the economic development and residential growth that we desire.”
The mayor said he is very happy to work with Mantello, who has “always been very understanding of our needs as a destination along this historic waterway.”
The entire village board is very pleased to be recipients of the grant, he said.
“We are committed to taking the necessary steps of making Phoenix a better place for our residents to live while encouraging others to visit us and be a part of our great community,” Fratto said.
“I think the canal sometimes is one of those hidden treasures that’s forgotten about. But we’ve seen firsthand how it plays a vital role in the economic revitalization of Upstate New York,” Mantello said.
The Erie Canal Greenway Grant Program is administered by the Canal Corporation.
It was created to help spur community revitalization along the 524-mile Canal System.
Since November 2006, 54 Greenway grants have been awarded on a competitive basis to communities and non-profit organizations for capital projects that enhance and promote tourism, recreation, historic interpretation and community revitalization in 19 counties along the New York State Canal System.
All grants require a dollar-for-dollar match in local funds or in-kind services.
The system is comprised of four historic waterways: the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca canals.
Spanning 524 miles across the state, the waterway links the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and the Niagara River with communities rich in history and culture.
For more information, call 1-800-4CANAL4 or visit www.canals.ny.gov