New Year

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The enlarged 1842 Erie Canal with the recently reconstructed Towpath Trail to the right.
The enlarged 1842 Erie Canal with the recently reconstructed Towpath Trail to the right.

Welcome to a new year on the Mohawk Towpath Byway. The Byway is open today along with all of the recreational opportunities. The Byway from Schenectady to Cohoes and Waterford uses all public roads and all the public outdoor recreation facilities are open, but, as always, dress appropriately against the wind driven squalls. The ice skates and skate sailing will have to wait for colder temperatures.

We look forward to good participation at the upcoming meeting of the Friends of the Byway on Tuesday, January 8 at the Historic Grooms Tavern in Rexford. Before the meeting give some thought to what you would like to see the Friends do this year to make a difference for Byway residents and visitors.

One proposal is to reconstruct the footbridge deck on the Original Erie Canal Towpath just west of the Water Authority access road. The bridge abutments have shifted slightly with ice action over the years, but the stringers are still in good shape to serve many additional years of service.

Is there another project that you are passionate about? Bring your ideas to the meeting on Tuesday evening January 8.

Byway Achievements

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A discussion around the table at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway came up with surprising results.  The question was, “What were the greatest achievements on the Byway this year?”

HolidaySwag

First up, Ruth related the story that at the Duathlon registration when her husband met an individual recovering from a similar medical condition as his.  “The two of them are helping each other through recovery.”

Paul said, “I became more familiar with the features within the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.”  He also added that fellow volunteer Chris had used a personal GPS devise to map trails in the Preserve and proceeded to color blaze the individual trails to match the mapping.

 “Volunteers Chris and Joanne have painted a mural on the other side of the Whipple bridge aerial photo,” added Sue. “Their mural names and color codes the trails. Additionally Chris created directional signs at entrances to the nature preserve and at trail intersections complete with trail names and distances. Most of the trails have color coded discs on trees.”

Eric is proud of the Story Telling Summit that the Friends of the Byway helped host in late spring.  We had folks attend from as far away as the mid west U S. It was the consensus around the table that we should do something similar next year.

Mary reported that she had given a tour of the Byway to a group of 7 or 8 hikers.  They all enjoyed the experience and hope to repeat it, perhaps in another area of the Byway.

Nancy shared a story that as she and Tracy were marshaling participants at the Duathlon, Tracy pointed out a coyote crossing a distant field.  Nancy continued her post, but later saw the coyote return across the ridge.

Maryanne shared a story of a visit to a historic building and had paused at the top of the stairs.  While she was there she felt a push toward the stairs as if  by a mischievous child, but no one was around.  That story was added to the folklore of the historic property which had, at one time, housed an orphanage.

Lara successfully completed the Duathlon, and has always been impressed by the enthusiasm of the volunteers who host the event.  She is looking forward to competing again next year.

During Farm Fest weekend Larry helped a visitor discover nearby Clutes Dry Dock by accessing the Byway tour on the visitor’s cell phone.  The visitor was compelled to check out other features along the Byway corridor during the weekend.  The self guided tour feature makes it easy to discover the Byway at your own pace and on your own time.

These individual observations illustrate the diverse interests on the Byway and the collection of resources that make the Mohawk Towpath Byway such a unique place to live, to visit and to share with the outside world.  What stands out in your mind as a special resource along the waterway west?  

New Post

Birding Trail

John Loz and Eric Hamilton install an IBA sign to the introductory stop on the Birding Trail in the Vischer Ferry Preserve. – photo by Maryanne Mackey.

Actually there are four new posts just off the Mohawk Towpath Byway within the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.  They mark spots on the new birding trail added to our self guided tour of features along the Byway.  This is a joint project, long in planning, between the Audubon Society of the Capital Region and the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.

The tour points out four different habitats within the preserve each different types of bird species.  These habitats are described as open water habitat (in the background of the accompanying photo); cattail marsh; river and river edge habitat; and forest and shrub habitat.

“The Vischer Ferry Preserve was named an Important Bird Area in 1997 by Audubon New York and Bird Life International,” explains John Loz.  “This partnership between the birding community and the Byway community is most significant.”

“It is partnerships like this that broaden the appeal of the Mohawk Towpath Byway to local, regional and international visitors.  It is yet another story to add to the overall Byway experience,” adds Eric Hamilton.

Try it!  Stop at the the main entrance to the Preserve located at the intersection of Riverview Road and Van Vranken Road.  Scan the QR code posted on the wooden kiosk with the area map or key in 518-649-9990 and listen to the narrative for stop 4.  Then walk over the historic Whipple truss that bridges the 1842 enlarged Erie Canal and look for stop 31 on the right (as pictured here).

It’s all right here in our backyard!  Get out and enjoy it as the fall colors reach their peak and the bird migration along the eastern flyway is in full swing.

Action Required!

There is a bill due for markup in the House Transportation and Commerce Committee that would strengthen the National Scenic Byway Program.

HR 5158 would direct the Secretary of Transportation to request nominations for roads to be designated under the national scenic byway program. A as one of America’s Byways® we stand to gain additional partnerships, a broader network of scenic byways across the country, and a broader base to market our Byway with residents, visitors, and even international tourism.

Take a few minutes and click on this link… www.scenic.org/HR5158  it will bring you to a page from which you can generate a letter to your Congressman.  Edit the letter as you see fit and to personalize it to be more effective.  But do it now.

Was it Ben Franklin who commented on “The power of the pen.”  Now is your chance to use the power!

State of the Byway

What is the Mohawk Towpath Byway?

…the road between Waterford/Cohoes and Schenectady that follows the historic route of the Erie Canal.  Traveling the route you uncover the “waterway west” and the role our communities played in the westward expansion and Industrial Revolution.

Whats a Byway?

Bike the Byway with the Mohawk Valley to the west.

Bike the Byway with the Mohawk Valley to the west.

…a public road having special scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archaeological, and/or natural qualities that have been recognized as such through legislation or some other official declaration.

The Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition is a not-for-profit with our 10 municipal members and a representative from Schenectady County.  The Coalition oversees the implementation of our corridor management plan.  Not only are we one of the network of roads in New York State’s system of scenic byways, but we are one of America’s Byways® a collection of 150 scenic byways across the U S that tell a unique part of the America’s history and culture.

Assets:

  • Self Guided Byway Tour of features along the driving route well marked by way-finding signs.
  • A series of Interpretive Kiosks along the Byway corridor.
  • Recreational assets in each of the ten municipalities. 
  • A website and Google Voice 518-406-8610 contact phone number.
  • A cadre of enthusiastic volunteers.

Liabilities:

  • Cell Phone operational platform

    MabieCanalFest3

    Sharing the Byway stories at Canal Festival at Mabee Farm Historic Site.

  • Printing marketing and tourist oriented materials
  • Maintain way-finding signage
  • Sustain a vibrant and fresh web presence
  • Keeping volunteers engaged and rewarded.

What’s going on along the Byway? 

It seems like every weekend there is a local festival or event (see the calendar) or a work party.  There will be events through the fall and winter.  And then spring comes and we celebrate the opening of the Erie Canal for another season with Canal Days in Waterford Harbor.

What projects are you involved with?

One of our top priorities along the Byway is to raise community awareness.  We have such rich history within our communities.  We have some great recreational opportunities, natural history, cultural centers.

Another major project is our scenic conservation initiative.  This revolves around what we want the Byway to look like for our next generation.  Change is inevitable.  There are small changes that occur every day.  It is important that as these changes occur that we do not loose the character of our communities and our sense of place.

The Byway Is Run by Volunteers

How can we help?

Friends of the Byway clean up ready for the summer season.

Friends of the Byway clean up ready for fall events.

  • Roadside and canal cleanup by youth groups, neighborhood associations, fraternal organizations, and businesses.
  • Scout Projects to expand recreational opportunities
  • Improve assess to historic features
  • Hosting local events and festivals

What is the Vision?

We have this vision of being a tourist destination, regional, national and international.  With all the levels of history, unique recreational assets, cultural centers …we have so much to offer in this area that we take it for granted.  As more and more people become aware of what we have, the more we will want to maintain the character of our communities and our heritage. 

Summary

Even as federal and state funding are declining the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway remains a vibrant community of volunteers who have a strong sense of place esteem.  Can we show you around, and share a story or two?

Sharing the Stories

IMG_0426The Canal Fest at the Mabee Farm Historic Site has to be one of the most unique spaces in which to share the stories of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.  The barn provides a period setting, a large audience of all ages and interests, and a relaxed atmosphere.  Here Mary MacDonald (behind a visitor) shares stories, experiences, and sense of place with a small, but interested group.  I estimate that several hundred people stopped at our booth in the four hours we were there.  The only attraction that garnered more interest was the free Stewart’s Ice Cream offered in the kitchen!  Next year won’t you join us?

 

Summit Success

TomLindsayIMG_3956

Kathy Sheehan discusses Guided Tours in Historic Institutions along with co-panelists John Scherer and Mary Zawacki, both seated. – photo by Tom Lindsay 

“There’s a ship!” explained Philip Morris excitedly to grab everyone’s attention.  Then he went on to describe the use of live theater as a story telling venue.  That was the keynote address at the Mohawk Towpath Byway Story Telling Summit on June 6 at the Mabee Farm Historic Site.  Thirty six people participated either by sharing their story telling techniques or by actively listening to the four fast paced panel discussions during the day.  More detail of the day’s program and more pictures click here.  Everything we always wanted to know about story telling from basic principles, for an audience interested in popular culture, through historic institutions, innovative methods in the 21st century, to folk music and the ballad.

The day also included sumptuous food for a light breakfast, catered lunch buffet, and finger foods at a late afternoon reception all arranged by the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.  The audience included our Byway enthusiasts and byway leaders from Ohio and Kansas!

Develop our story is the top priority of the Friends of the Byway.  This Summit met our needs!

Last Chance to Register

StoryTellingSummitRegister now for the Mohawk Towpath Byway Story Telling Summit on June 6.  This fast moving series of four panel discussions with a line up of guest speakers on how to tell the compelling stories of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.  The day starts with the principles of story telling, folklore, and interpretation and wraps up with modern story telling techniques using social media, documentaries, and cell phone.  We will share some great food, stories, camaraderie, and a key note inspiration from Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors.

Register now!

 

Intrinsic Qualities

QualitiesWhat’s a scenic byway? …a road less traveled? “…a road or track not following a main route; a minor road or path.” Spring time is as good a time as any to reflect on what makes a byway.

All national scenic byways have at least one of the six intrinsic qualities: archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic. I think you will agree that the Mohawk Towpath Byway is rich with each one of these qualities and I would like to share share the thoughts, ideas, and suggestions that went into our Corridor Management Plan.  It was put together by our “Advocacy Committee” under the guidance of the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor nearly two decades ago.

Let us look at each of these qualities, each with it’s own entry, and see if they are still as relevant today as they were twenty years ago. Your comments, ideas, and perspective would be greatly appreciated!

Cultural Intrinsic Qualities – see https://wp.me/p8Z8Z1-Sd

Natural Intrinsic Qualities – see https://wp.me/p8Z8Z1-RB

Recreational Intrinsic Qualities – see  https://wp.me/p8Z8Z1-RN

Scenic Intrinsic Qualities – see https://wp.me/p8Z8Z1-ST

Archaeology as an Intrinsic Quality – see https://wp.me/p8Z8Z1-Tl

Historic Intrinsic Quality – see https://wp.me/p8Z8Z1-Tr   This is our intrinsic quality, the one we focus all our efforts on.   In fact the Mohawk Towpath Byway has been described as, “the short Byway with the longest history.”   Now, how does your story fold into the Byway story?

Tip o’ the Tam

ShamrockHere’s a tip o’ the tam to all those who can trace their ancestry to the Irish labor force who built the Erie Canal. There were certainly other immigrant groups including Germans and and Brits who contributed to the project – the only water level route through the Appalachian Mountains. But Irish workers were the largest, most significant group working for 37 to 50 cents a day (and maybe a ration of whiskey).

These hard working individuals learned construction techniques along side the early engineers. Before the age of steam engines principal tools were the pick and shovel. These people found efficient methods and fashioned new tools many of which still play a role today like the wheel barrow and stump puller.

“Not only did the Irish lend their unique hard work ethic to the canal, they also put their stamp on it in many other ways, including “canal songs” that they wrote, fashioned after popular Irish tunes, with new words to fit the environment. And of course, they settled in towns all along the canal route, seen in the architecture of buildings, reminiscent of Ireland.” – Maryann Tracy.

A special salute to all our volunteers with even a bit of Irish still working to tell the spirited stories and pass along our heritage along the Mohawk Towpath Byway.