ERIE CANAL (WROC) — The Erie Canal is just weeks from its opening day on May 19, ahead of the official opening though, the Canalway Challenge has kicked off as of May 1. Now in its fifth year, the program has already logged over a million miles along the canal.
“The Canalway challenge is a program that was designed for fun and fitness on the canal,” said Ashley Quimby-Simoni a Program Manager for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “We have mileage goals for 15 miles, 90 miles, 180 [miles] and then for people who really want to push themselves and go 360 [miles], we have an end-to-end program.”
For those who are less mobile than others, many improvements have been made in towns along the Erie Canal right here in Western New York that have boosted accessibility.
“Western New York and the Rochester area is a great place for people with mobility challenges and disabilities,” said Quimby-Simoni. “Fairport just put in ADA-accessible bathrooms that are right on the trail. Brockport now has an ADA-accessible kayak launch that’s available in that community so there’s lots of opportunities for people in that region to get on the trail and get active.”
The canal also being mostly flat makes it fairly accessible for most people as well. These all work in favor of the last mileage challenge which focuses on those with limited mobility but still want to be able to participate.
“First Mile which is really a program designed for people with disabilities and mobility challenges to go their first mile on the canal,” said Quimby-Simoni.
While the main focus of the challenge is on fitness, the challenge also works to keep the canal a central part of life across New York State. Especially since 80% of people in upstate New York, including here in Western New York, still live within 25 miles of the canal.
“It’s important that we preserve that and keep people coming back to New York State not only for you know economic and tourism benefits but because it’s such a historic gem that it’s certainly worth saving and protecting,” said Quimby-Simoni.
Signing up for the challenge is free, and you can choose to complete the goal distance as an individual or as a team.
“We’ve even had people complete their challenge on rollerblades we’ve had people complete winter challenges on ice skates but most of our participants do cycle walk or paddle the canal,” said Quimby-Simoni.
No matter what you choose to do for your challenge this summer just remember to get outside have fun and be safe. So be sure to bring your life jacket, helmet, or both depending on your journey.
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