By Kassie Parisi
CAPITAL REGION — New York state will be investing more than $2 million in its canal system in the form of a new competition meant to encourage economic growth and more tourism.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said the competition will be run by the New York Power Authority and the New York State Canal Corp. The state will be taking ideas from public and private sector groups regarding how to revitalize areas of the Erie Canal.
The entrant with the winning idea could receive up to $2.5 million to implement its plan. The state will seek ideas for infrastructure improvements and programs that will increase recreation and tourism on the canal system and the nearby areas.
Construction of the 524-mile canal system began just over 200 years ago.
“The canal system is a vital part of New York’s storied past and it is critical that it continues to be an essential component of our state’s future,” Cuomo said in the news release.
Matthew Ossenfort, Montgomery County executive, said that he is appreciative that the state has plans to focus on the canal.
“We’re certainly very interested in it,” he said of the competition.
Montgomery County is already home to a number of canal-centered projects, such as the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam and a canal port in Canajoharie, he said.
Ossenfort said any idea connected to Montgomery County would most likely involve those two projects.
He said the canal has been a catalyst for growth and development in the past and he expects it to be a catalyst for growth in the near future.
“The canal is the one thing that binds everyone in this county together. No matter where you live in this county, you have a relationship with it,” he said. “It is very much a part of who we are. It’s in the DNA of who were are as a community.”
For the first round of the competition, entrants will submit plans that address how their ideas meet the competition goals of improving infrastructure and recreation, and will also submit their own qualifications.
Finalists selected from the first round will each receive $50,000 to move to the second round, during which they will have the opportunity to partner with a municipality near the canal system to work on filling out their ideas. Finalists will also be able to work with nonprofits that are involved with canal-related work.
Judges will then select two or more winners from the finalists to receive between $250,000 and $1.5 million to implement their projects.
Submissions for the first round of the competition are due Dec. 4 and the winner will be announced next spring.