Residents rally to save trees along the Erie Canal

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PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WROC) — Several residents along the Erie Canal are upset because New York State wants to tear down trees in certain areas along the canal. A rally took place Sunday at Great Embankment Park to protest the plan.

The trees were supposed to be cut a few years ago, but that plan was halted. The Canal Corporation didn’t possess a full environmental review prepared.

In 2021 however, a review was released in March which put the plans in motion. Local residents like Lori Vail say they’re affected.

“I am madly in love with the Erie Canal, I spend time on it every single day,” Vail said. “When I found out they were talking about clear cutting some parts of the canal, that deeply impacted me.”

Advocate Ginny Maier says the trees help fight global warming, provide shade, a barrier of privacy to residents and so much more.

So why does the state want to cut them down?

“Primary concern they have is safety, and the major concern is they want to be able to see the entire embankment,” Ginny Maier, co-founder of Stop The Canal Clear-Cut said. “They’re also operating on a theory that trees weaken the embankment slopes and make the embankment fail.”

Maier says the corporation was in the middle of cutting down trees in Brockport and Spencerport a few years back, when they almost made it to Monroe County before it was halted.

“We stopped them because they had not completed their environmental review process before they got to Brighton,” Maier said.

Town residents and officials from Pittsford, Perinton and Brighton won a lawsuit challenging the project for this reason. That review, is now complete. The public is asked to submit comments and feedback before September 5.

While it’s what residents were asking for a few years back, that doesn’t mean their fight is over. The end goal of saving these trees remains.

News 8 couldn’t reach the Canal Corporation Sunday, but a statement from 2018 says the following:

“Our top priority has always been the safety and security of those who use the Erie Canal and those who live and work nearby. We are disappointed by the court’s decision and will review our options. The Canal Corporation hopes to still perform necessary maintenance on the embankment in time for the start of the 2018 navigation season in May.”

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