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MJ from Skaneateles on 10/17/2020 11:30:40 AM:
I rode the Erie Canal trail last week from Buffalo to Albany. I used my rode bike without any issues although the trail has a lot of varied conditions. The trail is a resource with a ton of potential. But present day conditions in many areas leave a lot to be desired. It amazed me that some areas are paved, others crushed cinder and others packed dirt. I was happy not to have to repair any flats. Also was amazed how little those who live near the canal know about it including where the trail start is in their town. At one point I was down to an 18 inch wide strip of a trail - fortunately not for a very long distance. I expected these varied conditions but could imagine how exceptional the experience will be once the trail has consistently good pavement for riding. What disappointed me was how poor the directional signs are along the trail. Some are so faded you had to get really close to them to see which way the arrow was pointing. And in other instances you’d follow that arrow only to not find another sign that would tell you where to turn next. Once I found myself dumped off the trail into a large course stone lot where I had to carry my bike. Fortunately someone came along who pointed me where to head on the other side of the lot. I had several instance where the trail was closed for construction with no detour signs. The Erie Canal Trail interactive map really isn’t interactive to a large degree. A huge opportunity to improve this. There is an icon on the site for GPS that didn’t work for me. The website was helpful though in identifying places along the trail for an easy off hotel room. As for the canal some areas are wonderful areas of recreation with working locks. Other areas are abandoned algae covered stagnant waterways long ago abandoned. The green algae rivals the green landscapes in Ireland! I loved it when local pride took some ownership of the trail. Even with that don’t plan on any restrooms along the way with limited exceptions. Porta potties would have been welcomed. Also mile markers along the route would have been nice. I know that there are plans to spend millions of taxpayer money to improve the trail. In the near-term take a few thousands of dollars to do some intermediate things that would make immediate and simple improvements.

 
John from Pittsburgh, PA on 10/17/2020 11:06:13 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. John