The long-anticipated $2 million restoration of the Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct at Camillus Erie Canal Park is a “go.” This was what it looked like on Saturday. They are now just starting to place the watertight layer of boards on the floor. When it’s finished in October, it will be the only fully navigable canal aqueduct in New York (there are two others, in Pennsylvania and Delaware). The Camillus aqueduct was exceptionally made even by the standards of the day (1844) and had relatively few structural problems since it fell out of use early in the 20th century, making it a good candidate for this kind of project. The book Camillus, Halfway There by David Beebe, mastermind of the Camillus Erie Canal Park, describes some of the long road to restoration since the park’s establishment in 1972. There probably hasn’t been a moment since then when some sort of preparatory work wasn’t being done (by volunteers) to make the aqueduct and the park ready for this project.
I’ll miss the picturesque view of the aqueduct in its derelict state — where history was left up to the imagination — but the smell of the fresh lumber at the construction site is no less delightful. There is not the sense of pointlessness I get when I see them building DestiNY USA. For one thing, the benefits of the aqueduct project are clear. It will immediately double the size of the canal usable for boats and kayakers, which will attract more people to the park. It will also bring more people to the less-used eastern half of the towpath, which leads to Route 173 (Warners Road) and the Allied waste beds beyond, where the canal once ran. If this proximity to sad reality inspires some kayaker, biker or jogger to say I wish this trail went even farther…, and gets them dreaming about how to un-do the mistakes of the past, that will be a great service to the Syracuse area.
DestiNY USA, with its promise of jobs and greenery, is still in the end all about consumption. The aqueduct project is all about restoring connections.