They came from all over:
The woman from Grand Rapids, Mich., with a stack of Web pages on the Erie Canal that she had printed out at home;
The men from Prince Edward Island who took the fast ferry from Toronto to sample Rochester’s golf courses;
The Boston family who, while camping near Buffalo, heard such great things about Rochester that they drove over to see what it was all about.
While in Rochester, all found themselves aboard a historic boat, floating down the Genesee River or Erie Canal, taking in the sights.
Corn Hill Navigation-the non-profit that runs the Sam Patch and, now, the Mary Jemison tour boats on the river and the canal-is hitting its stride.
Its newest tours are lunchtime excursions from Corn Hill on the Mary Jemison, named for the white woman who was adopted by the Seneca people and lived in what is now Letchworth State Park. She launches from Corn Hill Landing at noon, gliding past the South Wedge, Mt. Hope Cemetery and the University of Rochester, under the Elmwood Avenue bridge and through Genesee Valley Park, where the river meets the canal.
“In an hour you can feel like you had this whole getaway experience,” says Victoria Schmitt, who recently moved over from Rochester Museum and Science Center to become Corn Hill Navigation’s director of development and marketing.
Corn Hill Landing, the new luxury apartments on the river, and the new arch rising over the Troup Howell Bridge have added dramatic visual interest to the tours.
With the boat’s return approach from the south “you get the first arches of the Ford Street bridge, and then the bigger arches of the new bridge. It makes you very proud of the city,” Schmitt says.
The lunch tours began this summer and sold out on several occasions. Schmitt predicts even more interest on cooler fall days after the leaves turn.
The Mary Jemison has one happy-hour cruise remaining-Sept. 1, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Two wine tastings with Casa Larga Vineyards will be held onboard this fall: Sept. 14 and Oct. 12, also starting at 6 p.m.
Construction in Corn Hill has made finding the dock a little problematic, but parking is available along Exchange Boulevard. Downtown workers can reach the dock by foot in 15 minutes.
If you’re interested in the future of canal development here, check out the New York State Canal Conference, Sept. 11 to 13. It will open Sunday, 12:30 to 5 p.m., at Corn Hill Landing with rides on Fairport’s Colonial Belle and Mary Jemison, a boat parade, tours of the new apartments and canal exhibits.
The conference, which is open to the public, studies the waterway’s economic development, tourism uses, bordering land use and recreational opportunities. “It’s really about community building and taking advantage of these incredible waterways we have,” Schmitt says.
Ted Curtis, the legendary former city manager and visitors’ bureau head who founded Corn Hill Navigation in the early ’90s, has vivid memories of the river as “an open sewer.” Now it’s an asset treasured by developers, boaters and city lovers.
“What I’m hoping when Corn Hill Landing really gets going next year is a steady stream of traffic with restaurants and boutiques,” he says, the pitch in his voice rising.
“Everything we dreamed of when we got this thing started 15 years ago is finally really starting to come about.”
08/26/05 (C) Rochester Business Journal