John from Pittsburgh, PA on 10/17/2020 11:06 PM
MJ: Great recap and I liked with your opinion that it has a lot of potential but also leaves a lot to be desired. I agree with the need for some simple improvements to make it easier to navigate.
The signage, both mile markers and directional signs, are severely lacking or poor overall. This is one thing they could easily and cheaply fix first and foremost. I did the organized PTNY Cycle the Erie Canal tour and they have some painted markers at turns and some of us still got lost a few times! They need accurate mile markers from Buffalo to Albany. How has this never been done yet?
In addition, where does the trail end and begin? They need some medallion or sign to lets people know you've reached Mile 0 or the end to celebrate their accomplishment. In Buffalo, I think the end/beginning is the Commercial Slip at Canalside. In Albany, I think the end/beginning is that Jennings Landing. That's my guess but neither contain a sign saying so. Is this really going to break their budget by adding these? Some informational signs as you approach towns would be helpful as it could list the miles to the next 2-3 towns plus all logos for food, water, lodging. This helps both cyclists and businesses.
I accept that there are different surfaces. I actually don't mind a mix of some dirt mule paths, crushed limestone, or paved asphalt as long as it's smooth. It gives the trail some character. I will say some of the crushed limestone gets soupy when it rains and doesn't drain as good as a rail-trail does (due to the ballast left underneath). As long as they keep on top of the bumpy tree roots under the asphalt, any really bad washouts of the limestone, and potholes/cracks, I'm fine with it. I don't expect them to ever pave the entire thing.
Bathrooms are severely lacking. Parks and Trails New York (PTNY) manages the trail and I'd like to see them devote some cash to some more port a johns and water faucets spaced along the trail.
In addition, perhaps later in the future, how about some campsites? It would be great to be able to stay the night and camp along the trail.
As for locals not really knowing about the trail, I think they may know about it as a waterway but not as a recreational trail. Seems odd to me as people from all over use the Erie Canal not just to cross the state but for some, its just one state while crossing the entire country, some from overseas. I know the GAP trail (Pittsburgh to Cumberland) has a had a very visible "Trail Towns" business marketing push and this has led to great things for cyclists in these pass through towns. Restaurants, bike repair shops, lodging, etc. marketed and targeted to cyclists and it's been very successful. Maybe when this becomes part of the greater Empire State Trail, they will make better push with these towns for them to realize what a gem they have on their hands.
Yeah, that interactive map is poor and needs updated. On top of that, I'd like to see them create some real PDF map like the GAP or C&O Canal. These show all of the water fountains, towns with restaurants, camping sites, bike repair shops, picnic areas, and mile markers.