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State has not OK’d zip lines over Erie Canal in Lockport, spokesman says

LOCKPORT – The state Canal Corp. has not approved, even informally, the plan by the owners of the Lockport Cave to install a zip-line ride over the Erie Canal, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Shane Mahar, deputy communications director for the Canal Corp. and the Thruway Authority, said the City of Lockport was informed Tuesday that the statements made Monday by the company’s owners and architect to the Planning Board about state approvals were false.

“We have not given approval, verbal or otherwise, to this project,” Mahar said.

At the Planning Board session, the board approved a recommendation to the Common Council for a special-use permit needed for construction of a “launching platform” for zip-line riders on private property near the Cave ticket office on Gooding Street, overlooking the canal.

Two other platforms needed for the ride across the canal and back are to be erected on state land. Architect Charles A. Dahlke told the Planning Board, “At this point, it’s a verbal agreement. The written agreement is in process.”

Mahar said, “They were wrong to indicate to the Planning Board they had a verbal approval. We don’t give verbal approvals. Our approvals are in writing, during a permit process.”

Mahar said Hydraulic Race Co., owners of the Cave and its underground boat ride, has talked to the Canal Corp. about the zip-line idea, most recently during a May 20 conversation between canal staffers and company co-owner Thomas Callahan. But Mahar said the company has so far not filed a permit application with the state, although he said he expects one soon.

Callahan and business partner Clarence “Clancy” Burkwit did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Jason Dool, the city’s chief building inspector, said he received an email from the Canal Corp. about the problem. He said it means that the Council could vote Wednesday to schedule a mandatory public hearing on the special-use permit request, but action on granting the permit has to be delayed.

“They could have a public hearing but they won’t be able to approve it, vote yes or no, until (the company) gets approval from Albany,” Dool said.

Council President Joseph C. Kibler said Callahan is expected to address the Council on Wednesday, but the special meeting he expected next week to grant the permit will not occur. Kibler said there wouldn’t be enough legal notice of the hearing to hold it before June 17.

As for the project itself, Mahar said, “I don’t want it to sound like we’re discouraging this. … We always want to encourage folks to come and enjoy and use the canal system.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com