ALBANY — Passage through the locks on the state canal system will be free for recreational boaters for the next three years.
The state Canal Corp. announced the toll waiver Tuesday. It said recreational board traffic had increased in 2017 and 2018, when the locks were toll-free in honor of the 200th anniversary of the original Erie Canal and the 100th anniversary of the modern state canal system. Recreational boaters passed through locks or lift bridges 71,529 times during the 2018 navigation season, compared with 69,362 in 2017.
So the Canal Corp. board of directors decided to continue waiving recreational tolls. Tolls will continue to be collected for commercial vessels.
The board also set the dates for the 2019, 2020 and 2021 navigation seasons: From the Friday before Memorial Day to the the Wednesday after Columbus Day. These are in line with the past two seasons, in which the locks began operating later and stopped operating sooner than the traditional open-close dates, so as to allow for increased maintenance and construction activity.
Barring complications related to weather and water levels, the 2019 season will be May 17 to Oct. 16.
The Canal Corp. also said Tuesday that it is reviewing the operating hours of the locks, after receiving feedback from commercial and recreational vessel operators and canal-related businesses. The hours for 2019 won’t be announced until April.