The Erie Canal Heritage Park, located at the site of former Lock 52, offer visitors a glimpse into authentic life on the Erie Canal in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. The intriguing walls of the former lock beckon NYS Thruway travelers to pause in their journey to discover history at a totally unique attraction that features an intact 19th century canal lock, the Erie House 1895 tavern, a blacksmith shop and a mule barn — plus a newly constructed Visitor Center, walking trails, refreshments and other amenities.
Every day, more and more people are coming to appreciate that New York’s culture and heritage is intimately connected to the development of the canal system. Our history is the canal’s history, and it must be preserved not just for today’s travelers but for the future generations to come.
Nowhere else in the nation is there an historic site with direct access from an interstate highway — offering millions of interstate travelers prime access to the new Erie Canal Heritage Park. Located at the 1851 Lock 52 site, the New York State Thruway Authority, working collaboratively with the Canal Society, will create a new exit/off ramp and parking from the NYS Thruway (eastward bound) thereby making The Erie Canal Heritage Park directly accessible from Interstate 90 but also locally via NY Route 31. Located on the doorstep of New York’s Finger Lakes region, and on the major route to the state’s capital, the Adirondack Mountains, New York City and the Massachusetts Turnpike, the Erie Canal Heritage Park will reach regional, national and international audiences.
The potential for the project is vast. In a recent survey of travelers conducted for the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council, 65% of those surveyed said that they “seek travel experiences where the destination, its buildings and surroundings have retained their historic character.” Closer to home, a current study and survey of Thruway visitors who stopped at the Port Byron full service plaza west of the site revealed that 61% of travelers during the summer months would visit a historic park if a facility like the proposed Erie Canal Heritage Park came into existence. The new Erie Canal Heritage Park offers visitors an experience they desire; and much more.
In a unique partnership, The Erie Canal Heritage Park at Port Byron will be operated by the Canal Society of New York State in cooperation with the NYS Thruway Authority. New York State and the Canal Society have already made a significant investment in the creation of the new Erie Canal Heritage Park. The State’s commitment to the project is in excess of $9M to build the Thruway off ramp access, parking lot, trails, interpretive and way-finding signage, and new Visitor’s Center.