Erick Tichonuk, Fairport, NY
Fairport has an active canal waterfront. Every time we visit they have to reserve us space because of the popularity with boaters. This is the result of a community embracing its waterfront. They embrace the history, provide good boater facilities, and you’re in the heart of the action downtown. The phenomenon of being downtown when on the canal is true through much of the western end, whereas much of the rest of the system the canal is outside of town. This resulted from the final enlargement of the canal to the New York State Barge Canal System in the early 20th Century. The final enlargement took advantage of the natural waterways by “canalizing” the rivers and lakes. This meant rivers such as the Mohawk, Seneca, and Oswego were dammed to provide navigable pools of water that met the new 12’ draft requirements. Locks were installed to circumnavigate the dams. This new system provided better flood control, and the means to generate power at the dams. This also meant the relocation of the canal outside of the heart of many communities. The former canal was paved over and turned into innumerable “Canal Streets” and “Erie Boulevards” making way for the automobile. The western section of the canal rarely uses natural waterways for navigation, so it typically follows close to the original track of the enlarged Erie Canal.
Fairport has always embraced the Lois McClure and made it part of the community. The 2017 Legacy Tour is no exception. We kicked off our first day in port with evening hours, welcoming local dignitaries and locals alike. The decks swelled with the voices of visitors asking questions of our crew. We suspect the ice cream shop next to the boat helped our attendance. The following morning kicked off with a press conference where we presented the Tree Committee of Fairport with their trees. Fairport is designated as a Tree City by the National Arbor Day Foundation and has an active tree inventory and planting program. Our visit was planned, promoted and organized by Martha Malone of the Office of Community and Economic Development in partnership with our long-time friend Scott Winner of the Fairport Partnership.
When people approach the Lois McClure for the first time they’re drawn in by the size and uniqueness. For many they know they’ve seen one before, but just can’t place it. What they’re recollecting is their 4th grade history book where they were introduced to the Erie Canal, the boats, and the mules that towed them. Next they’re trying to figure out what we’re all about. Are we going for a ride? Sorry, we made it so historically accurate it won’t pass Coast Guard regulations for taking passengers underway. How much of my life do I need to commit to this tour? That’s up to you. Spend 5 minutes or two hours, and visitors do both. How much does it cost? Nothing, except your time and maybe a donation if you feel the experience was worth it, which most do. You can thank our generous and supportive partners such as the New York State Canal Corporation for bringing this piece of floating history to your community at no cost, and therefore providing no barriers to visiting. The thing that makes the Lois McClure experience unique is you get out of it what you put in. Our crew of staff and volunteers works tirelessly (nearly) to engage people in this amazing story. It’s relatively easy because the story is so interesting, and when folks respond with their exclamations of amazement or thanks and praise for bringing them this vessel, it’s all worthwhile. It’s the face to face meaningful dialogue that makes a visit special.
We’d like to make a special thanks to Pam who is co-owner of Bed & Breakfast The Inn on Church in Fairport. She provided our crew with two rooms for two nights, providing a much appreciated break from boat life and an immersion into the lap of luxury. Breakfast was stupendous and her hospitality and congeniality seemingly endless. Thanks Pam!