Thursday, June 22, 2006

Canal Daze

Bruce Northam is touring the Empire State, whether it’s by horseback or tractor. If you’re living in the Mohawk Valley, however, don’t expect the “globe-trotting travel writer” to take a float by on a canal barge.

Northam took a brief stop in the Spa City Tuesday as part of his state-funded 2,000-mile journey to promote tourism. Dubbed the “New York Detour” by press flack from the state Economic Development Corp., he’s pulling the journey for the state’s official tourism promoting agency, better know among laymen as the “I Love New York” people –queue the catchy state song.

But one area Northam isn’t likely to visit on his 23-day journey from Niagara Falls to Long Island is the seemingly endless miles of heritage corridor along the Erie Canal, thanks to the brain-spliting stupidity of the state’s bureaucrats.

For the historically challenged, the Erie Canal served as the main bi-way across New York and toward the west for nearly two centuries. With the advent of modern engineering, the canal fell to the wayside, taking with it many of the communities that depended on the commerce.

Today, the canal is not much more than a summer attraction for boaters traveling from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes. In an effort to rejuvenate this once-bustling swath of the state, the Legislature created the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission, which was charged with helping out little known townships such as Waterford, Canajoharie and Little Falls, to name a few.

But when two business incubators are shoved into the same cramped space, it’s almost guaranteed one is going to harbor a sour attitude. In this case, it was the Empire State Development folks, who couldn’t fathom the heritage corridor commission whistling their jingo.

So instead of working together, the I Love New York people forbade the commission from using their well-known logo until an agreement last week almost entirely ignored by the media, when they finally conceded the futility of two state agencies fighting amongst themselves for essentially the same goal: bringing in more tourists.

Last week, Empire State Development unceremoniously threw in the proverbial towel and agreed to allow the corridor commission to use its trademark emblem. That was probably long after Northam embarked on his journey, as there’s sparsely a mention of the canal in his blog.

Ironically, Northam prides himself for keeping “on the lookout for local unsung heroes,” or those who add to the community’s colorful social fabric. Oddly, he missed the one part of New York’s community, which played a major role in coining the “empire state” moniker. Just ask the unsung heros of the corridor commission. They’ll tell you all about it.

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