Oak Island Canal Port

Oak Island is located near Lock 4 of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal in the Village of Waterloo. The Canal connects Seneca and Cayuga Lakes to the New York State Barge Canal System. Located near downtown Waterloo, the island is owned by New York State and has been used by the Village as a waterfront access point since the 1960’s. By the late 1980’s, after years of wear and tear, the Island’s facilities had fallen into disrepair and disuse. The gravel parking lot was rutted and full of weeds, the boat launch was deteriorated, wood docks were rotting, and an old shelter was unusable.

Prompted by State-wide efforts to revitalize New York’s famous canal system and the towns and village’s through which it passes, Waterloo took action to deal with the deterioration of the facility and to capitalize on the opportunities is presented. In the early 1990’s Waterloo hired an engineer to prepare plans to upgrade the parking lot, refurbish the boat launch, and replace the culvert under the entrance road. At about the same time, Oak Island was designated a “Canal Port” in the Erie Canal Corridor Plan, a State-wide “master plan” for revitalizing the State’s canal system. This designation provided further impetus to redevelop the Oak Island facilities. The Village applied for and received a $61,700 Municipal Canal Development Program Grant in 1994 to re-grade the parking lot; install a new concrete launch ramp and aluminum docks; and replace a culvert. In 1996 the Village received funds for a marine pump-out facility from the Clean Vessel Assistance Program.

The biggest boost to the Village’s Oak Island development plans came from HUD’s 1997 Canal Corridor Initiative funded through the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant program. The Village received $190,000 to install transient docking, pave the parking areas, and construct a picnic pavilion. A $5,000 Urban and Community Forestry Program grant helped to landscape the site by planting over thirty new trees. In 2000, the Village’s vision for the Island was fully realized with the award of funds from the NYS Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act to construct a public restroom and shower facility, a second picnic pavilion, and other amenities. A Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) grant was also awarded in 2000 and, when completed, will assist in constructing a connector trail from the Island to the Central Business District. TEA-21 funds will also be used to construct the Waterloo segment of the Erie Canal Corridor Trail, which will follow the old Erie Canal from Albany to Buffalo.

With its initial goals accomplished, the Village hired Thoma to prepare conceptual plans for additional phases.  The plan recommended an accessible fishing platform, a second picnic pavilion, upgraded walking trails, a viewing platform on the island's west end, expanded fishing access, and facilities for overnight boating. The Village subsequently garnered a $50,000 Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) grant in 2007 to begin implementation of the next phase.  They expect to complete construction of this phase in 2012.

Over an almost fifteen year period, Thoma worked with the Village to secure over $450,000 from seven different State and federal funding sources to redevelop Oak Island as a first rate Canal Port and waterfront park. Over the same period, the Village committed over $150,000 of its own funds toward the project.

Waterloo’s efforts serve as an excellent example to other municipalities. They spent the time and effort to develop comprehensive plans for the facility and they were willing to commit their own resources to ensure success. As a result, Oak Island is becoming a significant destination point on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal and the Village is poised to reap the benefits of State and federal efforts to revitalize the Canal system.


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