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Murphy Named Honorary Chair of World Canal Conference

2017 event to be held in Syracuse

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton has announced that Cornelius "Neil" Murphy, Jr., ESF senior fellow and former president, will serve as honorary chair of the 2017 World Canals Conference (WCC) in Syracuse in September 2017.

The WCC will be held in Central New York as the historic Erie Canal begins an eight-year commemoration of its bicentennial. Ground was broken for the transformative waterway in Rome July 4, 1817, and the Canal opened Oct. 26, 1825. The Erie Canal quickly became the most vital trade route in the young nation and helped make New York City one of the world's most important ports and commercial centers.

"The iconic Erie Canal is the cornerstone of our nation's economic and cultural history and we are proud to put that history on display for the entire world at the 2017 World Canals Conference," said Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation Acting Executive Director Robert Megna. "Canals continue to play a critically important role in the lives of people throughout the international community and we look forward to showing how we have capitalized on the Canals here in Central New York and throughout the state as both a historical resource and modern economic engine."

"We cannot think of a better place to host this conference than Central New York, especially as we celebrate the Erie Canal's 200th anniversary, and we are so pleased to have Neil Murphy as our honorary conference chair," said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. "The Erie Canal has always been an iconic feature of upstate New York and putting it in a global spotlight will allow us to show how we have capitalized on the Canal system to revitalize upstate New York."

Each year, the WCC brings hundreds of canal enthusiasts, professionals and scholars from around the world together to discuss canals and inland waterways as a means to promote tourism, spur economic and community development and exchange best practices on strategies for the protection of historic canals or features, canal revitalization efforts, harbor sites, canal trails and amenities. The 2017 conference is being co-sponsored by the Canal Corporation, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and Visit Syracuse.

Murphy is senior fellow for environmental and sustainable systems at ESF, where he was president from 2000 to 2013. Previously, he was president and chief executive officer of O'Brien & Gere, an environmental engineering consulting firm based in Syracuse. He is also a member of the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council.

A recent study commissioned by the Canal Corporation found that New York's Canal system supports $6.2 billion in other-than-tourism-related economic activity, in addition to its $380 million tourism-based economic impact. Further, the study also determined that the Canals support 26,472 jobs, $1.6 billion in personal income, and $702 million in tax revenue, both directly and indirectly.

A second study recently released by Parks & Trails NY and funded in part by the Canal Corporation and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor established that the Erie Canalway Trail, which parallels the Erie Canal from the Hudson River to Lake Erie, has an economic impact of approximately $253 million annually and supports 3,440 jobs in the trail corridor.