Ronald Dudzinski sees a diamond in the rough when looking at the Memphis portion of the Erie Canal.
"It's a piece of the town that nobody knows about, a beautiful area with a history behind it," he said. He also noted the trail is in desperate need of upkeep. "It's so overgrown. It's like you're walking through a tunnel."
Dudzinski, a Van Buren town councilor, is spearheading an effort to clean up the trail, which stretches a little more than two miles through the hamlet of Memphis in the southwestern tip of the town. To do so, he is seeking individual and group volunteers to help clear and maintain the trail.
"There's a lot of growth, vines and brush," Dudzinski said about the trail. "I'd like it to be open so you can see sunlight and the canal along the trail."
He also wants residents to share how they envision this portion of the Erie Canal trail.
"This is a community project," he said, adding the water level could be raised if people wanted to navigate the canal. "I'd eventually like people to be able to put a kayak or canoe into the water."
Pack 143 Boy scouts, an Eagle Scout candidate and two snowmobile clubs have expressed interest in helping to clean up the trail, however, since Dudzinski anticipates the clean up alone taking a few years, more volunteers are needed.
"It would be nice to get groups of people to get it cleaned up," he said.
While the path is currently overgrown, it is still navigable and visitors are encouraged to utilize the trail whether biking, horseback riding or walking. Snowmobiling is also allowed during appropriate conditions, however, no other motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail.
Stretching from Buffalo to Albany along the existing canal, the 10-foot wide stone-dust trail is handicap accessible. It was cleared and built by the Canal Corporation in 2003. After completing the Memphis trail, the town of Van Buren installed a parking area for visitors' convenience.