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Letter: Let’s start planning now for canal’s bicentennial

Let’s start planning now for canal’s bicentennial

On the Fourth of July, I was pleased to read two pieces in The News featuring the Erie Canal, one by columnist Sean Kirst and one in Another Voice by Gil Quiniones.

The latter of the two pointed out the immeasurable beneficial effect that the canal had on our city, our state and our nation. It also reported that the officials and citizens of Lockport were readying festivities there for the 200th anniversary of the start of construction on the canal.

Meanwhile, from our leaders in Buffalo, there is a deafening silence about the event, even though Buffalo was the western terminus of the canal. In fact, the main reason for its construction was to allow waterborne traffic between New York City and Buffalo.

The 200th anniversary of the completion of the canal in 1825 will soon be upon us. Most cities would have already begun plans for the celebration of such a historic event. Again, silence from Buffalo’s leaders.

In the Erie Canal’s heyday, more people passed through Buffalo on their way west than came through Ellis Island. Canalside is a wonderful attraction, but it is utilized mostly by Western New Yorkers, and has minimal reference to the Erie Canal. Where is the statuary memorializing the men who made it possible? Where are the replicas of the canal boats that carried a myriad of American pioneers on the first leg of their journey westward? Where are the educational displays explaining the challenge of constructing the canal? Where is the visitors center, which explains its importance?

These things may not be accomplished in a day, or even in the eight years remaining before the canal’s bicentennial. But I believe they would transform Canalside from a marvelous entertainment venue for Western New Yorkers into a world-class destination, not only for all New Yorkers, but nationally and even internationally. It’s time for our leaders to put on their thinking caps.

I invite those of a like mind to see my webpage at bit.ly/BuffaloErieCanal

Angelo F. Coniglio

Amherst

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