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The Elevating Erie Project

The Elevating Erie Project is a collaborative effort with New York State and our neighboring communities to close the 14-mile gap in the Erie Canalway Trail System between Dewitt and Camillus.  That 14-mile gap is an essential connector within the 750-mile NYS Empire State Trail system, which was completed January 1, 2021. The Empire State Trail (EST) provides cyclists, walkers, and hikers the opportunity to explore New York State from Buffalo to Albany, and from New York City to the Canadian border.

In DeWitt, the gap in the Erie Canal spans from the Erie Canalway Trail located along Butternut Drive and Kinne Road, down Towpath Drive (the true historical route of the Erie Canal) connecting to Erie Boulevard, and following Erie Boulevard as it flows into the city of Syracuse.

The Elevating Erie Project began in DeWitt in 2015 as the “Elevating Erie Ideas Competition,” an international competition soliciting the public’s ideas and vision for the future of Erie Boulevard between Dewitt and the city of Syracuse. Nearly 70 proposals from 16 countries were received. This ideas competition strongly supported the statewide effort to provide the connections that would reimagine this historical Erie Canal corridor.

In 2019, the public’s inspired Elevating Erie conceptual ideas moved one step closer to reality when New York State announced the $20 million Empire State Trail investment for Erie Boulevard; the single largest allocation of funds state-wide. Erie Boulevard East in DeWitt, from Thompson Road to Bridge Street, is the centerpiece – and signature investment – of the EST project and now features a multi-use, trail/bikeway/greenspace (landscaping to be completed this spring) and a walking/cycling lane the entire length of Towpath Road, including reflective signage.

A new pedestrian bridge across Interstate-481 was completed and opened in August 2020; the bridge is a key component of the Elevating Erie Project in DeWitt and also an essential connector within the 750-mile EST system. Before this pedestrian bridge, the whole of the Town of DeWitt was bisected by I-481, with few options for walkers, bikers, and runners to safely cross over I-481 to one of the most recreation rich areas of DeWitt. It is a welcome benefit for families, walkers, runners and cyclists; it connects our Craige, Kinne Road and Towpath Road neighborhoods to Butternut Drive, Town Hall, Ryder Park, Butternut Creek Park, Cedar Bay Park, the Erie Canal itself, and the Erie Canalway Trail system.

In addition to augmenting the trees and greenspace in the landscaped median along Erie Boulevard, we’re also looking forward to the park development of the Widewaters Pond Project at the crossroads of Erie Boulevard and Bridge Street, adjacent to the Marshall’s Plaza. We plan to enhance the existing pond area – adding much needed natural landscape to this business district – with a boardwalk, greenspace, trails, water fountains, benches and colored lighting.

The Elevating Erie Project and Ideas Competition, as well as the Widewaters Pond Project, are excellent examples of how we’re tangibly “building community” in the Town of DeWitt; working in partnership with the public, neighboring communities, and state government supports economic development opportunities – and quality of life – for all stakeholders.

Connecting DeWitt residents and those who work on Erie Boulevard to our parks, greenspaces, and trail systems supports quality of life and also the strength and stability of our tax base; a myriad of studies have shown that parks and greenspaces improve the standard of living and quality of life for surrounding neighborhoods, provides increased recreational opportunities and public health improvements, increases property values, and helps to maintain a strong tax base. If greenspaces are our “natural capital,” the Town of DeWitt is rich indeed!

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The Town of DeWitt…we’re building community.

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