This story ran on page A07 of the Boston Globe on 5/18/2000. © Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

Paris to revamp major canals
By Marilyn August, Associated Press, 5/18/2000

PARIS - Imagine kayaking down the Seine, antique-hunting along the banks of the Paris canals, or even taking a trip north of Paris by boat.

These are part of an $85.7 million plan unveiled yesterday to make the historic waterways of the French capital tourist-friendly.

''We have to make the landscape around the canals more attractive for leisure activities and promenades,'' Paris Mayor Jean Tiberi said in a news conference.

Tiberi said the project to renovate the city's three main canal systems - Saint-Denis, Saint-Martin and Ourcq - would take about six years.

The canal system was built in the early 1800s by Napoleon Bonaparte, who was eager to bring clean water into the city and cut a straight water route through the capital, in contrast to the meandering Seine River.

Today, the 81-mile system of waterways stretches across Paris and into outlying suburbs.

Picturesque, working-class neighborhoods grew around the locks, inspiring generations of painters and movie directors.

Tiberi said greater use of the canals for cargo would also reduce pollution and truck traffic in and around the city. The waterways currently transport 1 million tons of building materials yearly.

''I took a boat to the inauguration of the Stade de France in 1998,'' Tiberi said of the stadium north of Paris that staged the World Cup soccer final. ''It was the middle of winter, but it was still quite pleasant. Think how nice it would be in the summer.''

Most visitors think visiting Paris's waterways is limited to a ride down the Seine through central Paris on a Bateau Mouche.

But the slow boat ride down the Canal Saint-Martin and through its nine locks draws about 80,000 visitors yearly. The new project includes quick trips with shorter routes as well as a trip through what the mayor's office describes as a ''fairylike'' underground portion of the Canal Saint-Martin.

The renovation project also includes making the canal quays accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. The city plans to install high-tech lighting in underground areas, revamp the harbor at the Villette in northern Paris - where visitors can already rent kayaks - and build more boat docks at the Pavillon de l'Arsenal.

The Arsenal harbor, where Parisians lounge on grassy banks of the Seine, currently has dock space for about 170 boats - 70 percent of which go to foreign visitors.

About 1,300 boats dock in Paris each year according to the Paris Chamber of Commerce.

This story ran on page A07 of the Boston Globe on 5/18/2000. © Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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