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Laying of historic stone signals start of Commercial Slip rebirth Area could be open to boaters by summer

The reconstruction of the walls of Erie Canal Harbor's historic Commercial Slip -- which could open to boaters as early as this summer -- began Thursday.

With a ceremonial assembly of politicians on hand, an excavator deposited an original limestone onto the slip's west wall, sending the historic project toward an October 2007 completion date.

The two walls will use 350 original stones, along with an additional 250 obtained regionally. The original stones will be identified with a bronze medallion.

"I never thought we'd be standing here today in the middle of what is going to be the re-watered Commercial Slip, watching the stones put in place as part of this replication," said County Executive Joel A. Giambra. "The authenticity is what's going to bring tourists here and families here to see this."

Giambra intervened on behalf of preservationists six years ago, helping persuade Gov. George E. Pataki to change the course of the project by putting greater emphasis on the historic significance of the Erie Canal.

Thomas D. Blanchard Jr., Empire State Development Corp.'s director of research and planning and the project's overseer, said the mild winter allowed the project to move slightly ahead of schedule as it enters prime construction season.

"You should be able to bring your boat in here by the end of this summer," he said, adding that while there will be no permanent docking or storage facilities, it will be possible to temporarily moor a boat there.

A bridge across the slip will be in place in spring 2007, about the same time work at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park is done. Mayor Byron W. Brown heralded the day's events, seeing them as a sign of good things to come.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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