Attendees of the World Canals Conference starting Sunday in Syracuse will take a number of study tours of the Erie Canal system, including the Camillus Erie Canal Park. The seven mile stretch of canal likely wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for a husband and wife who saw its potential.
WAER's Scott Willis met up with Liz Beebe at the restored aqueduct…the centerpiece of the park and a crowning achievement in 2009.
"Since our conception of this park 45 years ago, it was always one of our goals."
The $1.9 million project restored the trunk, or trough that carries the canal over Nine mile creek.
"Then we were able to re-water and connect these links of canal; one running from Sims Store to the aqueduct, and from the aqueduct to route 173. It meant we had two miles of continual navigable waterway through the park."
Liz Beebe and her husband David were avid birders. He was president of the local Audubon Society, and was looking for areas to preserve in the early 1970’s.
"We saw that they were continually filling in the old canal, and we knew they were going to jump right over to this part of the canal and continue to the next town line."
The effort led to the creation of Baltimore Woods, Beaver Lake, and their park in Camillus. Beebe says little did they know they were among the earliest pioneers to start restoring a piece of the old canal…
"We soon discovered how valuable and important part of history this was. We really had no concept of that at that particular time."
Now that they do, Beebe says she’s proud that the park’s 160 volunteers pass along the history and traditions of the old canal to younger generations.
"The school tours really plant that little seed. What's really nice is that we continually have people visiting the museum after moving away, and they come back and say I remember visiting in 4th grade."
In a few days, hundreds of visitors from the conference will stop by, and Beebe says it’s only fitting for the Erie’s bicentennial…
"I think it's an exceptional place to hold the conference. We are actually one of the longest canals and was probably one of the most prosperous. I think there's a sense that a new life has been given to canals."