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Most Erie Canal locks now reopened

Andrew Hyman
Created: June 29, 2020 12:01 AM

ROCHESTER N.Y. (WHEC) – At the rev of an engine, a canal houseboat can take folks to canal towns near and far.

Up until a few days ago, however, travel on the canal was restricted, which meant the boats at the Erie Canal Adventures Marina in Macedon were tied up at the dock. 

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On Friday, the New York State Canal Corporation, which manages the water, opened most of the canal's 35 locks.

The pandemic first delayed the initial opening of the canal. As regions began entering different phases of reopening, the canal began to reopen too, but travel could only be done between locks.

Owners Brian and Allie Keenan say the delayed start cost them two full months of business.

"Yeah, it was a pretty significant hit," Brian Keenan says.

Now the boats are free to travel, though, and Keenan says the company has already seen a bounce-back in business. They've booked roughly 80 percent of their reservations for the season.  

Keenan says not only will this be a benefit for their business, but for the towns that people sail to. People who commonly rent the houseboats will typically stop by and stay docked overnight, and the company provides boaters a few bikes to explore the towns further.

A 2015 study showed canal business brought in more than $300 million in economic impact.

"They're there on vacation, so they're looking to go out to dinner or stop at a gift shop,” Brian says.

The cruising season will kick off for them next weekend, and when boaters start sailing there will be added safety measures in place. For starters, they’ll routinely sanitize in between excursions and provide sanitizing kits for each of their 11 boats. As for keeping physically distant while boating, Keenan says renters are commonly families or couples.

While there will be some safety adjustments, Allie Keenan says what won’t change is the adventure itself.

"People have found a really different and unique way to vacation here in Upstate New York, so we're really excited," she says.

A spokesman for the Canal Corporation tells News10NBC that a few remaining locks are still closed for maintenance, but will reopen soon. You can check the schedule for those locks here.

The Erie Canal sailing season will last through October.


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