Rose, Business Sank
By Bryon Ackerman
The Utica Observer-Dispatch
Published September 19, 2006
What's the saying? A rising tide lifts all ships?
That wasn't the case this summer on the Erie Canal: More
water meant less activity, less boating and less commerce.
•Canal locks handled more than 80,000 boat passages from
April 27 to Aug. 3 last year. The comparable number was
about 57,000 this year, state officials say.
•The Ilion Marina only had about 100 boats docked this
summer, compared to 211 last year. About $25,000 in business
was lost, Harbormaster Don Sterling said.
•Frankfort's marina lost money, Little Falls' had fewer
dockings, and canal-side Sylvan Beach and Utica businesses
struggled, those communities said.
"The season was lost," Sterling said. "It
was a terrible season."
Everything was set for the summer of 2006 to be the most
successful season ever for the state Canal Corporation
and canal-side communities.
After waiving recreational tolls for the first time since
1994 and beginning new marketing and public relations
campaigns, expectations were high, Canal Corp. Director
Carmella Mantello said.
"Then gas prices went up," she said. "Then
Mother Nature gave us a walloping."
Gasoline prices might have discouraged some boaters,
but flooding June 28 had a much more direct effect on
About 30 percent of the canal was closed for about two
weeks, which included the important July Fourth weekend,
The canal wasn't 100 percent open again until Aug. 19,
she said. The most troubles were in the Lock 10 area on
the eastern end.
The local pinch
Kitty's on the Canal in Utica lost about 30 percent of
its outdoor dining business compared to last year, owner
and manager Dave Morgan said.
Less traffic meant fewer boaters eating at the restaurant,
he said. Although boaters make up only a small percentage
of the business, many customers didn't show up because
they usually like to look at the boats, Morgan said.
Also, summer had many days that were either too hot or
too rainy, he added.
In the Little Falls Canal Harbor, 400 boaters docked
overnight in 2005; only 150 did this year.
Harbormaster Tom Ryan said next year will be what this
year would have been without the flood.
"I'm sure everyone along the canal is looking toward
next season as providing the busiest season they've had
in a long time," Ryan said.
Toughing it out
Zhu Lin, a worker at Chinese restaurant Main Moon Buffet
in Ilion and the owner's nephew, said the restaurant typically
makes some deliveries to boaters staying at the Ilion
He didn't know any specifics, but it seemed like there
were fewer deliveries this year, he said.
Don and Jerry Snyder of Fort Pierce, Fla., have stayed
in their recreational vehicle at the Ilion Marina for
the past 10 years or longer because they are originally
from this area, Jerry Snyder said.
In the month they have spent at the marina this year,
they noticed significantly fewer boats than previous years,
This decrease left harbormaster Sterling already looking
forward to the 2007 season.
"I have full confidence in the marina coming back
next year," Sterling said. "It's just unfortunate
Mother Nature did a number on us this year."
Next year is a little less clear in Frankfort, where
the Frankfort Harbor Marina has lost $53,000 since 1999,
village Mayor Frank Moracco said.
The trend continued this year with $1,700 in losses and
Plans for the marina will be discussed in an October
meeting with Canal Corp. There is hope that RV sites and
a campground can be set up, he said.
"We need to be able to make it a profitable venture
for both the Canal Corporation and the village,"
Marcy Marina owner Carol Thomas didn't know any specifics,
but the flooding definitely cut down on traffic, she said.
"I don't think that was the only reason," Thomas
said. "I think gas prices had a lot to do with it."
And rain throughout the summer — not just the rain during
the flooding — kept people away from the canal, said Mike
Giordano, marina associate at Mariner's Landing in Sylvan
"It's not a summer people wanted to enjoy on (Oneida)
lake," he said.
The marina specifically was hurt by the closings of portions
of the canal during July Fourth weekend, he said.
Although July Fourth weekend is typically a big moneymaker,
every summer night of a usual season brings in a lot of
money and nonstop business, Giordano said.
"This year, it's just nothing," he said. "There
A study estimated that the canal has an economic impact
of $384 million a year on communities and businesses along
the canal, the Canal Corp.'s Mantello said.
One positive of this season was the Canal Splash. Nearly
50,000 people attended the more than 80 events, Mantello
Tourists visiting the canal this fall to view the foliage
offer some hope of salvaging what is left of the season,
The canal's summer hours ended Friday. The season comes
to an end Nov. 15, but might extend a little longer if
weather cooperates, she said.
* The canal system has extended its hours for the fall
foliage season and will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
until Sunday, Oct. 15.
* Traditional hours of operation were 7a.m. to 5 p.m.
from Sept. 16 to Nov. 15, when the system generally closes
for winter maintenance.
* Hours of operation from Oct. 16 to Nov. 15 will continue
to be 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.