Hopes for rebuilding the Erie Canal through the Tonawandas into a mecca for tourists and local visitors took a giant step forward Monday as state officials formally announced they are providing $3.3 million in revitalization funds.
"It's very exciting," said Tonawanda Mayor Alice A. Roth. "Things are really starting to come together. This is the kind of jump-start we need."
The State Thruway Authority is supplying the funds as part of a 15-year $146 million plan to restore the entire aging canal system.
In ceremonies at the Long Homestead in the City of Tonawanda, state and local officials said the rebirth of the canal's "Western Gateway" -- as the North Tonawanda and City of Tonawanda portion has been designated -- will create jobs and a new era of enthusiasm for what was once a vital asset.
"We are looking forward to the day when the New York State canal system will again be looked upon worldwide as one of New York's greatest resources," said Howard Steinberg, Thruway Authority chairman.
State officials presented leaders of the Twin Cities a symbolic check for $3.3 million during the ceremonies, which included a boat tour of the revitalization sites. The money is not expected to be released until the cities sign the construction contracts.
Of the total funds from the state, about $1.46 million is earmarked for North Tonawanda to:
Construct a pavilion, a 500-foot seawall and a 700-foot retaining wall at Pinochle Park, between the Renaissance Bridge and the Delaware Street Bridge, at a cost of $1.1 million.
Construct an 800-foot canal dock wall, sidewalks and railings in Sweeney Street Park at a cost of $351,000.
The City of Tonawanda will receive $1.09 million to:
Construct an amphitheater, promenade, 250-foot seawall and trails in Overlook Park, from the Renaissance Bridge to the Long Homestead Park bridge. The total cost is about $314,000.
Construct a 400-foot seawall and promenade and landscape Long Homestead Park at a cost of $55,000.
Repair 600 feet of canal wall and construct 400 feet of floating dock in Long Point Park and install 900 feet of promenade. Total cost is $721,000.
About $753,000 for a connecting bicycling and hiking trail from the City of Tonawanda through the Town of Tonawanda to Amherst.
Mayor Roth said the first project will be construction of the seawalls, with work expected to start at the end of the year or the beginning of next year.
Monday also marked the release of the Twin Cities' first brochure aimed at attracting tourism. The full-color publication touts the area's rich history.