Transition of a Canal to New York’s Longest Linear Park  

Chronology Compiled by Joan Schumaker
  • 1823– First petitions agitating for a Genesee Valley Canal sent to Albany
  • 1825– NY Governor Dewitt Clinton recommends connecting Rochester to the Allegheny River, the Genesee Valley is one of 17 possible canal routes linking to the Erie Cznzl.
  • 1826-35– About 100 petitions for a Genesee Valley Canal are received by the NYS Legislature, several surveys of routes are completed, Frederick C. Mills, Chief Engineer of NY Canals, completed a survey of the GVC route. It was to be 122 miles from downtown Rochester to the Allegheny River at Olean including a side cut to Dansville. Cost estimate to be slightly over $2 million.
  • 1836– May 6th. An act was passed by the NYS Legislature authorizing construction of the GVC.
  • 1837– First contracts were let for the first 30 miles and construction begun.The canal was completed from downtown Rochester to Scottsville

               Beginning of a “depression” in the American economy that woul last until 1844.

  • 1838– Contract were let for the next 50 miles. The contract for the tunnel under a hill across from Middle Falls was awarded to Elisha Johnson.  It was to be 108.2’ long, 27’ high and 20 ‘ wide.
  • 1839– Canal completed to the Genesee River crossing at Mt. Morris. The Deep Cut was started just west of Oakland. It would take several years and would result in a man-made valley 1000 yards long, 73’ high and 100 yards wide at the top.

                        Change in the original specifications for cut stone locks was changed to allow comnposite or all wood locks, saving $385 thousand.

  • 1840– First boat from Rochester arrives at the national Hotel in Cuylerville. Packet boat service was started between Rochester and Mt. Morris which ran until 1861.
  • 1841– The Dansville sidecut was completed and opened and the main canal was completed to Sonyea, completing 52 miles of the main canal.
  • 1842 – A Stop Law was passed shutting down any new canal construction indefinitely.From Sonyea to Olean about 50% of the canal was completed, with most locks partially complete.  Stockpiled construction materials were now at risk for deterioration and pilfering.
  • 1848 – Canal construction resumed slowly. Tunnel work restarted, but after a ceiling collapse, some rockslides, and dangerous working conditions, a re-evaluati0on of costs resulted in abandonment of the tunnel. The cheaper alternative was to pin the canal in a notch cut in to the side of the hill where miules and drivers could look over the edge, 200 to 300 feet down to the river below.
  • 1850– The Erie RR reached Olean, NY

        Strikes delayed work on the canal.  Demand for workers on both the railroad and the canal made wages (costs) higher and workers in short supply.

  • 1851 – The GVC was opened from Sonyea to Oramel, another 36 miles.
  • 1853– GVC opened from Oramel to Belfast, 2 more miles.
  • 1854– GVC opened from Belfast to Rockville, another 3 miles. Rockville Lake created as a reservoir.
  • 1856 – GVC completed from Rockville to Olean basin, n. ot quite to the Allegheny River. The first boat arrives in Cuba
  • 1857– An Extension to Mill Grove on the Allegheny River is authorized, 6 ½ miles upstream from Olean, with a wooden aqueduct and wooden guard lock.
  • 1861– the Mill Grove Extension is complete
  • 1862– The Extension opened to Mill Grove. For the first time the entire canal is open from the Erie Canal to the Allegheny River.
  • 1864-65– Major flooding causes extensive damage to the GVC.
  • 1868 – 10,000,000 board feet of lumber is stacked along the GVC awaiting the opening of the canal
  • 1876 – A committee appointed to study lateral canals recommends closing the GVC
  • 1877 – Legislation passed to close unprofitable lateral canals, including the GVC.

Canal left open to clear lumber still waiting shipment along the GVC.

  • 1878– Sept. 30th GVC officially abandoned
  • 1880– Right-of-way from Rochester to Mill Grove sold to the Genesee Valley Canal Railroad for $11,400.
  • 1882 – Genesee Valley Canal Railroad completed from Rochester to Hinsdale and used tracks of the Buffalo, New York, and Philadelphia RR to go on to Olean
  • 1883 – First trains from Rochester to Scottsville

            The tracks were mostly laid on the towpath of the canal, with the railroad only differing   significantly from the route of the canal in the section between Tuscarora and Oakland in Livingston County.

 Please refer to Railroad History in this menu for the railroads that followed the Genesee Valley Canal in the corridor that is now the  Genesee Valley Greenway State Park.

  • 1963– RG&E purchased the canal prism from Genesee Junction south to the thruway bridge, the corridor of the former Genesee Valley Canal and Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad, Rochester Branch, from Wadsworth Junction to Hinsdale , and also the corridor of the former Swain’s Branch Railroad from Nunda Junction to the Town of Grove in Allegany County.
  • 1967 – 78:  OPRHP purchased ~260 acres of the corridor in the Towns of Portage and Leicester which were added to Letchworth State Park and became Trail #7 (includes Oakland Locks) and lands at the northern park entrance.
  • 1975:“Old Genesee Valley Canal Trail” was included in the NYS Canal Recreation Development Program prepared jointly by OPRHP and DOT as part of the Statewide Recreation Planning Program.
  • 1984: OPRHP purchased 118 acres from Penn Central Corp., 10 miles of corridor in Monroe County, the first segment of the “Old Genesee Valley Canal Trail”
  • Mid 1980’s: DEC & FLTC proposed using Environmental Quality Bond Act (EQBA) funds to purchase the corridor from RG&E.
  • 1990: NYPCA, now Parks & Trails New York (PTNY), and RG&E initiated efforts to transform the corridor into the Genesee Valley Greenway.
  • 1991: PTNY formed a Steering Committee of interested stakeholders and held town meetings along the corridor
  • Local Committees in individual towns/villages obtained leases from RG&E to build Greenway trail.
  • 1992: First two miles of GVG opened in the Village of Mt. Morris
  • 1993: An additional three miles of GVG opened in the Towns of Nunda and Portage
  • 1993: The Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway (FOGVG), a 501(c)(3) NYS not for profit, type B Corporation was formed.
  • 1993 – 94: The first NYS Open Space Plan gave AA rating to acquisition of the “Genesee River Corridor” in Livingston and Monroe Counties and talked about Major Linear Systems
  • 1998: Open Space Plan priority list included the Genesee Valley Greenway and the OPRHP, DEC and FOGVG Partnership formed in 1994
  • 1997 – 2000: Partners worked with RG&E to resolve encroachments and NYS took possession of the entire corridor by purchasing the last 80 miles from RG&E.
  • The Genesee Valley Greenway was created and developed by         Public-private partnership 
    • NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP)
    • NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC
    • NYS Department of Transportation (DOT)
    • Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway, Inc. (FOGVG)
    • Local citizens, organizations, businesses and governments
  • How has the Greenway been Developed and Maintained?
    • DEC and OPRHP funds and personnel
    • Federal Transportation Enhancements Program funds awarded in 1994 & 2000 ($3.245 M – FOGVG as applicant)
    • Recreation Transportation Program Grant to FOGVG in 2007 & four in 2011 ( Mt. Morris Village in Livingston County, FLTC in Wyoming County, Town of Hume in Allegany County & NYS  OPRHP)
    • Federal Transportation Enhancements Program funds awarded in 2011 to the Friends of Cuba Architecture for development of one mile of Greenway trail in village of Cuba
    • Donations of land, labor and materials
    • FOGVG and Adopt a Trail Program
  • The Greenway became a NYS Linear Park in 2011with OPRHP assuming responsibility for trail previously under DEC
  • The Greenway Partners now consist of OPRHP and FOGVG
  • 2013– A 2006 Draft Management Plan was updated/modified, and the Genesee Valley Greenway State Park (GVGSP) Management Plan was completed in December 2013
  • 2014– A GVGSP Manager was appointed in January 2014.
  • 2018 – The current Manager is Kristine Uribe and her Operations Crew consists of 2 full time and 2-3 seasonal personnel
  • The Genesee Valley Greenway State Park is “An historic and natural resource corridor following the route of the former Genesee Valley Canal (1840-1878) and Pennsylvania Railroad , Rochester Branch, (1882-1963) and includes a 90-mile multi-use trail



Note:  Above data on the Genesee Valley Canal is from “Genesee Valley Canal Capsule History and Data”  by David Kipp , published by the Canal Society of New York for their Field Trip Guide, October 23-25, 2015.