New canal program empowers volunteers and uplifts the Central New York community
© 2012 Janine Mack
By Janine Mack CAMILLUS (NCC NEWS) — Volunteers from Camillus’ Erie Canal Park were designated the first “Canal Ambassadors” in a special ceremony on Friday.
“Our new canal ambassador program will both recognize our incredible volunteers out along the canal today and be a shining beacon to recruit and welcome new volunteers in the years to come,” New York State Canal Director Brian Stratton said.
Seventeen Erie Canal Park volunteers are first in the state-wide program
Erie State Canal Park Founder Dave Beebe and his wife, Liz Beebe, lead the way.
“At the store (Sim’s), 270,000 people visited the site in 2011 and 198,000 people visited the aqueduct site, which is mind-boggling,” Dave Beebe said. “Volunteers put in 25,800 volunteer hours to make that possible.”
“New York State’s canal program generates $380 million Dollars a year,” Stratton said.
The canal program and the park are staffed by volunteers. Fifteen other park volunteers received the award:
- Eric Batten,
- Gale Vance,
- Ed Cooper,
- Carol Coski,
- Brent Coski,
- Dawn Daggett,
- George Eschenfelder,
- Rob Smith,
- Larry Handertree,
- Hank Miller,
- Ed Morgan,
- Clyde Gold,
- Roger Bisarick,
- Jim Carroll, and
- Frank Izzo.
“As New Yorkers, we are proud of our heritage, history and tradition of hospitality. Nowhere is this pride more evident than in the spirit of volunteerism found in Camillus. Our first Ambassadors here set a standard to inspire even more volunteers statewide to become involved in their canal side communities,” Chairman of the Thruway and Canal Corporation Howard Milstein said via email.
Canal ambassadors have on a blue shirt and are located throughout the park to help with everything from directions to where to get lunch from in the area.
Canal ambassadors invite everyone to see the park as they see it
After the ceremony, volunteers were treated to a boat ride for the first-time on a restored tugboat by fellow volunteer and boat captain Jim Bafile.
“We have (had a lot of people come down) especially on Sundays when we have the boat rides. We get a lot of turnarounds,” Jim Bafile said.
The tugboat circled the Erie Canal Park stopping at the aqueduct. Erie Canal Park was originally established in 1835, but it closed in 1917. On the boat ride, volunteers passed out lunch that consisted of a sandwich, chips and pudding. There was a choice of hot apple cider or coffee to drink. The boat went past the 1825 canal called “Clinton’s Ditch”, the denoting the exact midpoint of the original Albany-Buffalo canal route, and it stopped at the aqueduct. In 2009, Dave and Liz Beebe helped restore the park; including, the aqueduct.
Volunteers came from all over the city and up to 10 miles away and were excited to see the aqueduct as most of the time they are in the park, at the store or cleaning up. According to the volunteers, the program is a way to fellowship with other people in the community and to preserve the history of Central New York.
Local businesses such as Pine Grove Country Club donated parts of their land to the park. The Camillus Elks Club and the Kayak Shop could not say they saw an increase in business over the last three years since the park was restored.
Along the trail, people were doing outdoor activities such as:
- Canoeing, and
To register as a canal ambassador, visit the canal’s website.
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