By Tammy Whitacre
NEWARK/ARCADIA — It’s been five years since town officials applied for a grant to complete the Erie Canalway trail through Newark and Arcadia, and next Wednesday, Oct. 3, the town will cut the ribbon to officially open the path to residents.
The project started at the corner of East Avenue and Van Buren Street in the village, where highway crews cleared a path for the new trail that connects Palmyra, Newark and Lyons along the historic waterway. Highway Superintendent Dave Harder said it took two years to get the permits approved, severely cutting into the time allowed under the grant to complete the trail.
The trail through Wayne County begins in Macedon and was started back in 1988 when Mark DeCracker presented a proposal to Sen. Patrick Moynihan. Cleanups started along the canal to clear away excessive brush and garbage. By the late 1990s, trails began to be built in different sections across the state. Locally, the trail was first installed from Fairport to Palmyra, then Palmyra to Newark. But the trail ended at the East Avenue bridge. Maps along the canal trail show the trail continuing, but the project was never completed.
In 2008, Supervisor Dick Colacino said the town was notified that grant money was available again. The holdup came in applying for the permits, until Colacino went to state Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton asking for his help to complete the process and jumpstart the project. Costs were shared between the county, town and village, and Colacino said without the support of the other municipalities, the trail may not have ever been completed.
The pathway was mapped out by canal officials and town engineer Bob Hutteman from Lu Engineers and required a roadside trail detour to avoid the CSX railroad tracks running parallel to the canal. Work began in May 2011, crews working in what Harder and Deputy Highway Superintendent Dan Pullen called the “wilderness section” of the trail. A wall of heavy brush and large trees stood before highway crew members, who were unaccustomed to building canal trails. But they learned.
“We’re highway guys,” Harder said. “But we can do anything. It was brutal down there. I’m talking big trees and brush. We had trees five feet around ... and tree work is slow.”
Besides problems of the leafy variety, crews were also fighting mosquitoes and horse flies.
“That first part was the worst,” Pullen said.
Pullen rallied the men, splitting them into three groups — one group cleared brush and trees, and behind them was the second group that began preparing the 6-foot pathway. The third was right behind laying the trail down with stone and topping it with stone dust. Only what was necessary was cleared from the path, Harder said, and crews were careful not to disturb anything they didn’t need to in order to preserve the wilderness aspect of the section of trail. The work wasn’t exactly foreign to Harder’s “good ol’ country boys” who have cut up a few trees for firewood throughout the years. But he also boasts a talented crew — builders, masons and electric experts — he hired for the talents they have.
“I think that’s why we’re such a successful crew,” Harder said of his town highway department. “I’ve surrounded myself with talented people.”
The project became one of teamwork, with help crossing town lines to get the job done.
Dan Crane of the Canal Corporation’s Lyons Dry Docks, brought a large barge with a crane down to where the men were working to help remove the trees and brush. Harder and Pullen both agreed Crane’s help saved the town time and money. As it was, it took about six weeks to cut through all the brush. As the crews worked, canal workers began putting rocks down along the shore of the canal to help prevent erosion.
The roadwork, although easier, wore on the crew mentally, Harder said, but they went above and beyond. Crews milled the path along Old Lyons Road for the roadside portion of the trail, and highway crews from throughout the county were ready to help. They came from Macedon, Walworth, Palmyra, Sodus, Lyons and Newark to assist Arcadia crews, and for an entire week, Harder said, they had a menagerie of trucks lining the road helping to get the trail done. The willingness of highway departments from neighboring communities to help when needed is something Harder said he is proud of.
“We have an intermunicipal agreement with all the towns of Wayne County, the village of Newark and Wayne County Highway so we can ask for help when we need it,” he said. “It’s a gentleman’s agreement. We’re not talking dollars and cents. It’s about getting the job done.”
The crew was putting the final touches on the project this week. On Monday, Old Lyons Road was “fog sealed,” which will give the entire road the appearance it was paved so it matches with the trail. Then on Tuesday, crews painted the lines marking the road and the trail. The work as a whole makes the route a smooth ride for bicyclists on the trail and motorists traveling beside it.
“I’m proud of this,” Harder said while traveling along the finished trail. “I have a very dedicated crew who works well together. Dan (Pullen) was instrumental. He ran the show and coordinated the work crews.”
He also praised Colacino and Mayor Peter Blandino for their support.
Harder believes the trail is something many people will enjoy. It includes open spots to stop and fish along the canal, benches to sit a spell and kiosks with trail maps. The town will be responsible for maintenance along the trail, although little is expected beyond mowing and trimming to keep the brush back. Harder said the trail is not intended for horses because their hooves tear up the trail. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but owners are expected to clean up after their pet and have their pets leashed. Motorized vehicles are also not allowed on the trail.
“I am so thankful too all those who make this trail possible,” Colacino said. “It’s beautiful. I’m so glad to see it finally finished. Crews did a great job, and they did it in the time restraints given.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the new section of the Erie Canalway trail will take place by Lock 28B by Clinton Street in Newark at noon on Thursday, Oct. 3. Colacino has invited county and canal officials and all those who have helped make the canal trail possible. The public is invited to attend the event and enjoy some refreshments after the ribbon-cutting.