Many New Yorkers who live along the Erie Canal are rediscovering the waterway via long-distance bicycle trips.
The recreational trail along the canal is becoming a well-used resource by people living in towns that were built by the canal. And they’re spending money too.
A survey by Parks and Trails New York finds a million and a half people take to the Erie Canal Trail every year. A large majority, nearly 90 percent, of those are bikers.
The survey finds they’re creating $253 million in economic activity, about $26 a person. The biggest source of that is people staying overnight in towns along the canal, followed by food and drink. And that amount is in addition to money spent by recreational boaters traversing the canal.
Fran Gotcsik from Parks and Trails New York says they found nearly all the people using the trails come from communities already along the canal, but she says many venture up to 50 miles away from home.
"So there is a lot of interest in the trail as a place to visit on the part of the people who live locally, but to visit it [in a way] where they would stay overnight," she says.
The average trip along the canal is three days. And 7 out of ten bikers on the trail are men, the survey found.
"We do know people who might live in an Erie Canalway county are also interested, very interested, in long distance – 50 miles or more – bicycle trips," she says.
Organized biking trips are fueling much of the interest in trailway.