Sunday, January 25, 2009


If you live along the Canal, you know that snowmobiling on the towpath is a common occurrence...despite it being illegal.

There's a movement afoot to make it legal from Day Road in Lockport to Marshall Road in Medina.

But, there's a hang-up in Middleport as the Buffalo News reported on Thursday...

Middleport Mayor Julie Maedl said Wednesday that she opposes the idea, although her board hasn’t voted on it, and the director of New York State Canal Corp. said that all municipalities along a route must support it.

Carmella R. Mantello said the canal corporation wants to see year-round use of the waterway, so it created a pilot program 11 years ago to allow snowmobiles to use canal property if local governments agree.

Five such permits have been granted, including approvals for clubs in Pendleton and Medina, Mantello said, and the canal corporation board may soon make the pilot program permanent with the same rules.

“We want all the local communities to be on board,” she said.

Gary Broderick of Shawnee Sno-Chiefs, who is also vice president of the New York State Snowmobile Association, is pushing for a 13-mile trail from Day Road to Marshall Road outside Medina.

He said the Niagara and Orleans county legislatures have passed resolutions of support, and Lockport Supervisor Marc R. Smith said the Town Board will probably follow suit at its Feb. 4 meeting.

Maedl said she could not recall anyone approaching Middleport about it, although Broderick said he had already learned of her opposition. He also said the canal corporation sent him a rejection letter even before an application had been made, but Mantello could not confirm that.

Maedl said Middleport rejected a snowmobile trail plan along the canal 10 years ago. “There are people walking on that canal bank yearround,” she said. Maedl also said that it might set a precedent for all-terrain vehicles on the towpath, which she opposes. Maedl, who lives right along the canal, said that before she got cable television, there used to be so many snowmobilers that they would create interference with TV reception, and they would park all over the sidewalks heading to Middleport’s bars. She said the trail “is not policed the way it ought to be.”

Broderick acknowledged that some snowmobilers use the canal towpath illegally now. “One percenters,” he called them. “They make us all look bad.”

Broderick said that if the towpath were legalized as a trail, a speed limit could be set — he suggested 25 mph — and state troopers, environmental conservation officers and state parks police could enforce it.

He also said the Snowmobile Association carries a $1 million liability insurance policy that would protect municipalities and landowners along the route.


The Lockport Union Sun and Journal also had a lengthy story about this. You can read it here: