Imagine the massive challenge of stewarding a 450-mile water trail. Launch areas, parking lots, and riverbanks all need ongoing attention to ensure a quality trail experience. This prompted the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor to develop a trail-wide stewardship program along the New York State Canalway Water Trail. They hired Cycle Forward to help make it happen.
Dates: August 2020 – March 2021
Client: Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor
Location: New York
Outdoor Asset: New York State Canalway Water Trail
Project Type: Plan Development/Program Design
The NYS Canal System is a National Historic Landmark. Together, the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Champlain, and Oswego canals drove New York’s nineteenth century economy. They continue to serve as an economic generator and contribute to New York’s sense of place. When use of the NYS Canal System evolved to include paddlers and recreational boaters, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor established the New York State Canalway Water Trail along the route. It soon became evident that a stewardship program was needed to enhance the visitor experience, promote boater safety, and mitigate the potential negative impacts of increased use. Erie Canalway selected Cycle Forward to work with its staff to design the program.
Developing a 450-mile stewardship program was no small task. Cycle Forward kicked off the project with a three-day site tour across New York, chasing sunlight each day to take in as many towns, locks, and launches as possible. Upon reaching the Erie Canalway headquarters, Cycle Forward led a canal-side outdoor Discovery Session to determine the client’s goals and desires. In the months to follow, more than two dozen stakeholders were interviewed and existing stewardship programs were researched. These findings contributed to the development of the program.
More important than modeling existing programs was designing one that would be achievable and sustainable for the Erie Canalway staff and its state agency partners. Together with the client, Cycle Forward developed guiding principles that would direct the planning process and the eventual program. Program partners were engaged at every step as an ambition (yet achievable) program was created.
- New York State Canalway Water Trail Stewardship Program Organizational Framework
- Collateral materials for use in launching the new program: volunteer handbook, orientation outline, volunteer recruitment flyer, and press release
The program was designed to have 100 miles adopted by volunteer stewards in the first year of the program (and to eventually adopt out all 450 miles by 2025, the Bicentennial of the completion of the original Erie Canal).
The Erie Canalway staff far surpassed its first-year goal of 100 miles adopted in 10 sections. By August 2020, volunteers adopted 24 sections (roughly 240 miles)! Program manager, Mona Caron, has reported that the new program has been manageable, and she is thrilled with how many sections have been adopted.