DeWitt Town Hall
By Hayleigh Gowans
Do you have interesting stories, facts or historical information regarding the area of the old path of the Erie Canal that spans from Camillus to DeWitt? You may be able to help with a new project to promote interest in the history and cultural significance of the area.
Spanning the Gap is a project that was spurred from last year’s Elevating Erie ideas competition as a means to stimulate projects that would revitalize the path of the old Erie Canal and create ways for it to become more versatile. Recently, the town of DeWitt was awarded a $75,000 grant from the New York State Council of the Arts to help fund Spanning the Gap.
“We hoped to start this [Elevating Erie] to open people’s minds to what the Erie Canal corridor could be,” said DeWitt Director of Planning and Zoning Sam Gordon. “We can’t stop thinking big.”
DeWitt has partnered with City Lore, a New York City-based cultural conservation nonprofit, to reach out to interested citizens in the area between Camillus and DeWitt to share their stories and suggestions for possible markers.
On Feb. 15, a kick-off meeting was held for interested organizations and members of the public to present the concept and the steps moving forward. Since the project is in its early stages, Gordon said input from the community is needed in order to determine the marker’s content, designs locations and purposes.
Molly Garfinkel, a representative from City Lore, said the focus of the project is to keep it driven by the community. City Lore also hope to gain community feedback to determine what other media platforms, such as video, audio, pictures and music, can be added to make the project a representation of the culture of the area, said Garfinkel.
“We want to focus on taking part in writing history and preserving the cultural resources we have,” said Garfinkel.
Garfinkel said she previously worked with the Erie Canal Museum along with the village of Baldwinsville, the Baldwinsville Public Library and the Museum at the Shacksboro Schoolhouse to carry out B’Ville Voices, a community-driven public art project. Several “memory markers” have been installed as a result of that project and a website, bvillevoices.org, was created to house the multimedia elements to accompany the markers.
The NYSCA grant will cover the two initial markers of the project — one in Camillus and one in DeWitt — but Gordon said he hopes these two markers will serve as a starting point and others can be developed as the funds are available. He also hopes surrounding neighbors on the Erie Canal trail can be inspired to create their own projects along the historic trail.
“I think the meeting went well, we heard some interesting ideas,” said Gordon. “I think these are the kinds of experiences we want to highlight. We want to get as much input as possible.”
A similar kick-off meeting will be held in Camillus in April, said Garfinkel, but the date and location have yet to be determined. In the meantime if you have any questions or comments, email Molly Garfinkel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Elevating Erie, go to elevatingerie.com. To learn more about City Lore, go to citylore.org.