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For Immediate Release: 07/31/2020
Contact: Office of Media Relations and Communications | (518) 471-5300 | public.info@thruway.ny.gov

THRUWAY AUTHORITY ANNOUNCES PORT BYRON OLD ERIE CANAL HERITAGE PARK TO OPEN AUGUST 1 FOR THE 2020 SEASON
Recipient of the 2020 Erie Canalway Heritage Award of Excellence  
Enhanced Safety Measures in Place for Visitors and Staff to Stop the Spread of COVID-19  

The New York State Thruway Authority today announced the Port Byron Old Erie Canal Heritage Park will open Saturday, August 1 for the 2020 season. The site features historical treasures showcasing authentic life on the Erie Canal in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. In previous years, the park opened for the season in May, however the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the opening this year until August 1.

“Located right off the Thruway, the Port Byron Old Erie Canal Heritage Park is a great opportunity for New Yorkers staying close to home this summer to enjoy a unique and educational journey through time,” Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said. “Visitors can learn about New York’s canal heritage and 19th century life on the Erie Canal by walking through historic buildings and exhibits, which are a testament to the canal’s legacy in the New York and the United States.”

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor recognized the park with the 2020 Erie Canalway Award of Excellence which honors significant places of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and excellence in advancing the goals of the Erie Canalway Preservation and Management Plan.

Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said,  “As New Yorkers stay closer to home this vacation season, the Port Bryon Old Erie Canal Heritage Park offers visitors an opportunity to explore the rich history of America’s most enduring waterway right in their backyard, and as we continue to navigate this novel pandemic, visitors should remember to maintain a safe social-distance while touring the historic buildings and the Enlarged Erie Canal lock structure.”   

Canal Society of New York State President Craig Williams said, “The Society is eager to again welcome all to the Old Erie Canal Heritage Park. With the much-appreciated assistance of the Thruway Authority, we have prepared the park to encourage visitors to safely experience the legend of the Grand Erie Canal.  Travelers on the Thruway can once more admire the 19th-century stonework of historic Lock 52.  New for this season is the exhibit, ‘Reflections of Erie's Waters,’ a visual history of the state's canal system prepared with special support from the New York State Canal Corporation.”

Canal Society of New York Executive Director Cabryn Gurdo said, “We are thrilled to finally be able to open the Old Erie Canal Heritage Park for the 2020 season. So much of the park can be experienced out-of-doors and we hope that our visitors take the opportunity to enjoy the fresh air as they experience the park. We've made some changes in the Visitor's Center, including new exhibits and safety measures.  We welcome all to visit and learn about New York State's canal heritage at the park, a partnership of the New York State Thruway Authority and the Canal Society of New York State.”

The seasonal attraction is located at the site of former Erie Canal Lock 52 and opened in 2016. It provides tourists a unique look into the history of the Canal and its impact on economic and commercial development of New York and the United States.

Visitors can walk through the enlarged Erie Canal Lock 52. The park’s visitor’s center includes a model lock featured in New York State’s exhibit at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, as well as interactive displays and educational materials. Additional amenities such as walking trails and refreshments are also available at the park.

Enhanced safety measures are in place for the safety of staff and visitors to stop the spread of COVID-19.

All visitors are required to wear a face covering when they are visiting the park. Masks will be made available to the public for those who do not have one for a $1 donation. Face coverings are required when inside buildings and when using restrooms.

Visitors are asked to adhere to social distancing policies and keep a distance of six feet between patrons. The number of visitors inside buildings at one time will be reduced to maintain proper social distancing.

Hand sanitizer will be available for visitors at entrances and exits. Additionally, staff will perform enhanced cleaning measures throughout the day at park facilities.

More information about COVID-19 can be found on the New York State Department of Health’s website.

Visitors can access the Heritage Park directly off the New York State Thruway eastbound between exit 41 (Waterloo – Clyde – NY Route 414) and exit 40 (Weedsport - Auburn – NY Route 34). The park is also accessible from NY Route 31 in the Village of Port Byron. To ensure consistency with federal requirements, visitors will be directed to return to the route from which they entered the park.

The park is operated by the Canal Society of New York and is open 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. every day through October. The park is staffed by part-time local travel counselors and volunteers and is a dog-friendly park.

For more information, visit the Port Byron Old Erie Canal Heritage Park’s website.

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