Camillus Erie Canal Park to celebrate 40th birthday

Sims' Store Museum sits right in front of the picturesque Erie Canal Park in Camillus.

Sims' Store Museum sits right in front of the picturesque Erie Canal Park in Camillus. Submitted photo

— Think of the Erie Canal in the way we often think of Interstate-90. It stretches from one end of New York state to the other and allowed for, at the time, an easy transport of people and goods.

When it was first concocted back in the early part of the 19th century, it quickly became one of the most innovative things in the country. The then 363-mile long canal -- now a 524-mile connection of waterways -- was the first all-aquatic link between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, chosen as a path of least resistance. Of the many stops along the way, one local spot has persevered and grown into a tourist and historian attraction.

“[The village of Camillus] was, at the time, a very industrious place,” park co-director Liz Beebe said. “We were known for our good wheat crops.”

This spring, the Camillus Erie Canal Park will be over the hill.

The park, which will turn 40 years old, will be holding a private ceremony on March 10 to show appreciation for the volunteers and members who help preserve the park.

Liz and Dave Beebe, a retired couple residing in central New York for the majority of their lives, have basically devoted everything to the Camillus Erie Canal Park for said 40 years. With no experience in the canal system, the two dove in head first, taking responsibility for the then 164-acre property upon approval from the town office. The couple said approximately 207,000 people visited the park in 2011.

“We accepted the responsibility,” Dave said with a sheepish grin. “After that, we just had to find out where the canal was!”

That sense of humor, along with unmatched devotion to the canal, has allowed the pair to oversee the park’s growth into a 400-acre parcel of water and beauty, burgeoning with scenic trails, camping and even guided water tours on boats built through raised funds.

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