Volunteer Programs 

Become a Canal Volunteer. It is a great way to give back to your community! Learn about the Canalway Adopt-a-Trail and Water Trail Stewardship programs, ways to help maintain hundreds of miles of trail and scenic trails, on land and water.
A group of volunteers wearing matching green shirts with "2022-23 Canal Cleansweep" logos standing near a sign that reads "Town Hall, Established 1916" in the background.
A group of five people is standing under a concrete bridge, posing for a photo after a cleanup activity. They are dressed in warm, colorful clothing and gloves, suggesting cold weather. They are surrounded by several large garbage bags, both black and orange, filled with collected trash. Behind them, the bridge has some graffiti, and leafless trees can be seen in the background, indicating it's likely autumn or early spring. The group is smiling, showing their satisfaction with their cleanup efforts.


The Canal Corporation, in partnership with the nonprofit Parks & Trails NY, runs the Adopt-a-Trail program. Join other trail enthusiasts in "adopting" a segment of the Canal Corporation-owned Canalway Trail. Adopters provide light maintenance work including picking up litter, mowing, trimming brush, removing fallen branches, raking or landscaping. This work helps ensure the enjoyment of the trails today and in the future.

Learn More About the Adopt-a-Trail Program

How to Become an Adopt-a-Trail Volunteer

Download important materials: application, manual, available trail segments and responsibilities.

Adopt-a-Trail Materials

Summary of Adopt-a-Trail Volunteer Recruitment

  • Read through the Adopt-a-Trail Manual
  • Identify a trail segment available for adoption
  • Fill out an online application for review and approval by Parks & Trails NY and the Canal Corporation
  • Once the application has been approved, complete a volunteer registration form. If you are organizing a group to Adopt-a-Trail, have every person complete a registration form
  • Start a volunteer roster, if you have a group of volunteers, and update it on an annual basis
  • Four minimum requirements:
    1. Visit adopted segments(s) at least once a month between April 1 and November 30
    2. Spend four hours per month performing light maintenance or other adopter activities on your segment(s)
    3. Host a Canal Clean Sweep event at your segment(s) in April
    4. Complete two field reports from April-November
Two people are kayaking on a calm river. The person on the left is wearing a blue life vest and a dark blue baseball cap, while the person on the right is wearing a green life vest and sunglasses. Both are smiling and appear to be enjoying their time on the water. A green metal bridge spans the river in the background, and the scene is surrounded by lush green trees.

Water Trail Stewardship Program

With sponsorship from the Canal Corporation, the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor runs a public volunteer program for the NYS Canalway Water Trail. Members of the public can join in an impressive effort to take care of all 450 miles of the Water Trail. Stewards help to pick up trash, do light maintenance work and serve as waterway ambassadors during the navigation season. With their help we can ensure the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Champlain and Oswego canals are beautiful for all to enjoy.

How to Become a Water Trail Stewardship Volunteer

Download important materials: sign-up form, available waterway sections and responsibilities.

Volunteer Steward Materials

Summary of Water Trail Stewardship Volunteer Steward Recruitment

  • Available for individuals, families, community groups and organizations
  • Volunteers must be at least 12 years old (with adult supervision)
  • Select a waterway section to steward—sections about 10 miles long
  • Complete the Sign-up Form
  • Responsibilities include light maintenance, observe & report issues and be a friendly ambassador
  • Minimum requirements
    1. Attend online volunteer orientation
    2. Visit your section at least twice a month between May 1 and October 31
    3. Spend about four to six hours each visit
A group of volunteers, including adults and children, smiling for a photo while participating in the annual Canal Clean Sweep event to prepare the Canalway System for the recreation season.

Canal Clean Sweep Event

Each year, to celebrate Earth Day, the individuals, community organizations, Adopt-a-Trail volunteers and local groups come together for Canal Clean Sweep. This event takes place across the Canal System to prepare the Canal Corporation-owned portions of the Canalway trails for the recreation season by cleaning up debris and undertaking various beautification projects.