Holyoke Canalwalk Project Overview
The Holyoke Canalwalk is sited in an area rich in national and historical significance. Built in the late 19th Century, the canals diverted waterpower from the Connecticut River and turned Holyoke into the first planned industrial city in the country. Holyoke soon became known as the Paper City of the World.
Today, the mill buildings along the canals hold great architectural interest for both historians and casual strollers. The stories of those buildings, the industries they supported, and the people who worked there are told in nearby Holyoke Heritage State Park.
The canals, a portion of which surround the Canalwalk, are a unique resource for the City of Holyoke, and the canal area is now known as the Arts & Industry District. Electrical power is still generated from the canal system, and many of the mills lining the waterways still utilized the waterpower of the canals. A number of mill buildings are still utilized as factory space, while others have adopted studio space by artists and craftspeople, galleries and performance spaces.
The Canalwalk design includes a wide promenade along the First and Second level canals. Decorative paving and landscaping, railings, fences, streetlights and benches will enhance and maintain the canal banks as well as encourage Canalwalk users to linger and enjoy the views across the open canals.
The Canalwalk will join existing features such as the Children's Museum, Heritage State Park and the Volleyball Hall of Fame, as well as other future shops, cafes, galleries and businesses expanding along with this area's development.
Stairs down to the Second level canal will allow people to get closer to the water. A railway bridge across this canal will be converted to a pedestrian crossing with shady gazebos providing shelter along the way. Outdoor exhibits along the route will interpret the area's attractions and resources, such as sustainable turbine energy and the City's rich history. Signs will direct pedestrians and bicyclists to nearby attractions.
Fountains in the canal and public art are also planned to enhance the area. A large performance space will be incorporated, making outdoor art and cultural events an integral part of the Canalwalk experience.
In the future, additional spurs may be added to the existing Canalwalk. Such spurs include a connection along Gatehouse Road to link to the Dam and view to Mt. Tom. Also considered are links to Pulaski Park, the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway, and as part of a connection to the Manhan Rail Trail.
(Original text from the City of Holyoke's Canalwalk project description)