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'Reimagine the Canals' contest invites visionary, practical ideas

The deadline is Friday for entries for a $2.5 million global competition seeking the best ideas to transform New York's canal system. Up to eight finalists will be selected and awarded up to $50,000 to further develop their proposals for the final round.

The New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation will  help identify local partners, such as nonprofits or municipalities, to advance the finalists’ projects. The canals pass through 226 towns, villages and cities. Two or more proposals will win, receiving $250,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the scope of the project.

The Reimagine the Canals Competition is intended to encourage visionary ideas that will transform how people use and experience the 524-mile state Canal System, which includes the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca canals. The historic waterways link the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes and Lake Champlain.

Entries should enhance the Canal System as a tourist destination and recreation asset; promote sustainable economic development along the canals; recognize their heritage and historic values; and bolster the system’s long-term financial sustainability.

The judges include: Carol Ash, chair and founding trustee of the Carey Institute for Global Good; Steve Dunlop, chief executive of Scottish Canals; Richard M. Larrabee, former director of the Port Commerce Department at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Mia Lehrer, founder and president of Studio-MLA; Holley Leicht, executive vice president of real estate development and planning at Empire State Development; Hugh O’Neill, president of Appleseed; and Darlene Upton, executive director at Parks Canada, in charge of waterways, parks and historic sites in Ontario.

“The deep well of experience that this panel offers ensures we will identify the highest-quality entries from among the many we expect to have submitted,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “The judges have been visionaries in their own lines of work and stewards of significant projects that have already been built. They are eminently qualified to determine which canal competition entries have the most potential.”

“We’ve worked with some of these panelists on other projects and know they are passionate about improving the New York State Canal System,” said Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corporation director. “Entrants should take comfort in knowing the merits of their ideas will be fully evaluated given the wide range of expertise among the judges.”

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