|Waterway Revitalization Leads to
Regional Partnership in Rochester
By Mayor William A. Johnson, Jr. City of Rochester
In Rochester, New York, waterway revitalization is grabbing the attention of people at the grassroots and bringing them together to chart a common future. Organizations and communities with a stake in the waterways have worked to set aside the rivalries and political boundaries that have traditionally separated them and common agendas have emerged.
As a result, the City of Rochester is establishing itself as the center city of our region, an international city, and a tourism destination.
Rochester's fortunes have always been tied to its waterways. The city's location at the confluence of Lake Ontario, the Genesee River, and the Erie Canal assured that Rochester would be a boomtown as the nation expanded westward in the 19th century. The combination of water power for its industry and water transportation for its products attracted the many entrepreneurs that transformed a frontier outpost to a city known as the "Young Lion of the West." Long lines of loaded barges moved along the newly-constructed Erie Canal in the heart of the rapidly-growing city. On the Genesee River, three waterfalls flowing into a deep gorge turned the mill wheels which made Rochester one of the nation's leading flour-processing centers. The Port of Rochester on Lake Ontario became a major Great Lakes shipping hub and resort area. As technology and transportation preferences changed in the 20th century, and pollution increased, Rochester's working waterways became progressively underutilized and underappreciated.
Today, a spirit of entrepreneurship is again flourishing along the city's 22 miles of long-forgotten shoreline. Most important, we've again recognized that we share a waterway region. Partnerships between neighborhoods, businesses, towns, and city, county, state, and federal governments are moving us into a new era of celebration and development on Rochester's waterfronts. Organizations are working together to balance the demands of economic development and community needs within a regional vision.
Our waterways preceded our political jurisdictions. Most of our communities would not exist, at least in their present form, if not for the influence of Lake Ontario, the Genesee River and its falls, and the Erie Canal. Historically, our water resources served as the framework and engine of settlement and industrial development. Today, their disregard of political boundaries -- and their incredible potential -- compel us to rethink our intermunicipal relationships. Rochester's waterways are reemerging as the focus of collaboration and entrepreneurship for regional prosperity.
Contact: Larry Stid, Director of Planning, (716) 428-6953