The numbers are in for Canalside, and even though the president of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. attributes the count of a million summer visitors to an educated guess, one thing is certain: The place is buzzing.
Again we have to say, who would have thought it possible just a few short years ago?
This summer was one long, amazing experience at Canalside. There have been free concerts, exercise in the form of Pilates and Zumba, artisans peddling wares, watercraft (choose from paddle boats, sailboats, water bikes, model sailboats, kayaks, paddle boards and a bike ferry) and a lot of plain old lolling about.
The Inner Harbor resembled a veritable water playground during the summer. Officials almost needed traffic lights out on the water, and it might not be a bad idea for some skippers to brush up on the rules of navigation.
Far from the deserted space it once was, Canalside is a happening place to be and to get excited about what is to come: The boardwalk will be extended south, silos will be lit up in November and the beach area will be expanded.
There are bike pathway improvements on deck with new trails, signage and landscaping planned at the southern entrance to Canalside. And there will be a new landing with kiosks for the bike ferry dock. That boat takes people (and their bikes) from the Commercial Slip at Canalside to the Outer Harbor for a buck each way.
The recent press conference held by Canalside officials touting planned improvements did have some encouraging hard numbers. The number of concertgoers rose 50,000 to 160,000, and the Queen City Bike Ferry, which didn’t begin service until well into the summer, drew 48,000 passengers. There were also 16,000 paddle and pedal boat passengers and almost 3,950 sailboat rentals.
Summer’s not even officially over, although Labor Day marks its ceremonial end. Early fall weekends should still be busy, including this weekend’s Maritime Festival and Halloween activities in October. By then we may be feeling the approach of winter.
A developed Canalside has made the chilly season a little more tolerable, as officials cheerfully remind everyone that freezing temps provide ideal conditions for the resumption of outdoor skating.
City folks and suburbanites clad in coats and gloves will begin showing up, skates in hand. Not to mention youth hockey teams practicing and competing at the HarborCenter and then grabbing more ice time under the open sky.
Canalside is proving to be the place to be whatever the season.