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For Immediate Release: 5/12/17

Contact: Jonathan Dougherty | jonathan.dougherty@thruway.ny.gov
Office of Media Relations and Communications | (518) 471-5300

THRUWAY AUTHORITY AND CANAL SOCIETY OF NEW YORK STATE ANNOUNCE OPENING OF PORT BYRON OLD ERIE CANAL HERITAGE PARK FOR 2017 SEASON
Extended Hours Will Offer Millions of Thruway Motorists a Glimpse into Authentic Life on Erie Canal in Mid-19th to Early 20th Centuries
Heritage Park Will Be Showcased at the World Canals Conference, Celebrating Erie Canal Bicentennial

The New York State Thruway Authority and the Canal Society of New York State today announced the 2017 opening of the Port Byron Old Erie Canal Heritage Park, an attraction along the Erie Canal for tourists and canal enthusiasts interested in the history of the Canal and its impact on the economic and commercial development of both New York and the United States.
Part of Governor Cuomo’s “Path Through History,” the Heritage Park initiative was developed in conjunction with the Canal Society of New York State. It is the only facility in the United States where you can access a heritage park from an Interstate.

“The Port Byron Old Erie Canal Heritage Park is a must-see destination for the estimated six million motorists that pass this historic site each year,” Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Bill Finch said. “The Thruway provides access to historic communities throughout upstate New York and gives travelers a chance to experience the profound history of New York State and the Erie Canal by simply pulling off the highway.”

Opened in 2016, the park gives visitors an authentic glimpse into life on the Erie Canal in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. Key historical components include the enlarged Erie Canal Lock 52 and the Erie House Complex, which dates back to 1895 and includes the Erie House Tavern and Hotel, a mule barn, and blacksmith shop. Guided tours provided by the Canal Society of New York State allow visitors a first-hand experience of the facility’s historic structures. The Visitor’s Center offers interactive displays and educational materials, including a model lock featured in New York State’s exhibit at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.

In 2017, the Heritage Park will be showcased at the World Canals Conference, hosted in the City of Syracuse September 24, 25 and 26. The conference will include visits to the park from international delegates and celebrate the bicentennial of the Erie Canal.

Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “The Erie Canal has provided 200 years of world-class enjoyment and endless exploration of Upstate New York. The Port Byron Old Erie Canal Heritage Park is just one of many stops along the historic canal that is preserving history so generations to come will be able to learn about it and enjoy it.

Kal Wysokowski, President of the Canal Society of New York State said, “The Port Byron Old Erie Canal Heritage Park is a place where visitors can actually touch history. From the historic former Lock 52 to the ropes that lifted vessels out of the water in the 20th century, in the early days of the Erie Canal, these are the artifacts that helped transform America.”
 “The community is excited to open up this treasure that we have kept for over 150 years. This one of a kind park will open New York State, the nation and the world to a transportation project that expanded our state economically and opened the west to development.  Visitors enter through a magnificent welcoming center with many displays including an 1893 large scale model of a double lock and walk through and touch the actual walls of Lock 52, a double lock on the Enlarged Erie Canal. There is nothing else like this in the United States and we are ready to welcome visitors from all over the world to see this amazing feat of engineering,” Andrea Seamans, Coordinator of the “Friends” of Port Byron Old Erie Canal Heritage Park said. “This entire project could not have happened without the support of the New York State Thruway Authority who has worked hand in hand with the NYS Canal Society bringing forward the foresight and determination to imagine what our site in Port Byron could become.  We are very thankful."

Visitors can enter the park directly from the eastbound Thruway (I-90) at milepost 308.7 between exits 41 (Waterloo – Clyde – NY Route 414) and 40 (Weedsport - Auburn – NY Route 34), or from NY Route 31 in the Village of Port Byron. Due to Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) Regulations, visitors will only be able to return to the route in which they entered. Visitors will be given a token upon entering the Park’s Visitor’s Center which corresponds to their particular entryway.

The Park’s hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through October 31.
For more information, visit http://www.newyorkcanals.org/preservation_portbyron.htm.

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