Close to Arbor Day my mind goes to an old farmer’s sage prognosis:
If the oak is out before the ash
’Twill be a summer of wet and splash
If the ash is out before the oak
‘Twill be a summer of fire and smoke.
This retired farm boy living in this Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway community is saying we are in for a wet summer, because the Oaks have leaves on them, they may be little leaves! The Ash, however, have buds only open enough to recognize the compound leaf structure inside.
Make your own observation on your end of the Byway and let me know if you see something different!
Our number one, top priority within the Mohawk Towpath National Scenic Byway corridor is to provide a positive visitor experience, period.
But how do we measure or quantify our successes? The designated route is along public roads that are open 24/7/365! Most of our historic features are along public highways or in, or along side the right-of-way. One such measure would be the number of hits on our website. That’s a start, but that’s only the visitors to our website. Intuitively visits to our website would reflect early curiosity or the number of people searching for a unique experience, not physical visits to the Byway. When we first set up the Byway’s website one of the concerns was that if we included too much information, too many pictures that would provide the whole experience and no one would try the real, authentic, visit.
I disagree. The more we can provide pictures of people enjoying the Byway and its many features the more we inspire the public to gain their own experience by physically visiting the Byway. My feeling is that use of our cell phone based self-guided tour is one of the best metrics of Byway visitation and experience.
Gathering information on visitors, not personal information, but number of calls to the self-guided tour are most helpful. Also the number of brochures that are picked up at various Byway locations are revealing.
The above data shows that visits almost doubled during the pandemic. People, including you and I, needed to get out of the house, but go where they were not exposed to others. A drive on the Mohawk Towpath Byway or visit one of our parks or historic sites was the perfect answer. Recent numbers are back, but not down to pre-COVID numbers. Perhaps return visits to the Byway and a greater digital marketing effort are definitely playing a role.
Also note that visitors don’t spend a lot of time on the page or listening to the entire narrative. If it is longer than 2 minutes they are gone to the next or are otherwise distracted.
For those of you who have used the self-guided tour service before, we will be adding new sites, new STOPs this spring along Erie Blvd. in Schenectady and in downtown Cohoes.
There was a focused digital marketing program for the Mohawk Towpath Byway this past summer that was a great success.
Starting in early July a program of relentless, persistent postings were made three times a week on
Each of these posts were page tagged and hash tagged. We piggy backed on other events posted by Albany County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (ACCVB), Discover Schenectady, and Discover Saratoga. These were in addition to postings that Byway volunteers occasional made and secondary postings on volunteer’s websites. The point was to increase hits on the Byway website and encourage down loads of our two detailed itineraries: one that started with a visit to Saratoga Return to Another Century or one for those arriving in the area by AMTRAKJourney to Another Place in Time.
The results were dramatic.
Prior to the July 1 the peak number of hits on our website was 2,000 on May 28 (the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend) after the marketing started weekly peaks occurred at 6,000 for the rest of the summer! Did that result in economic benefit to our community? I talked to Isabel Prescott (owner of Riverview Orchards) to determine if she saw any increase is traffic. Her response was that her sales increase every year. This year price increases were a part of that, but they seem to be getting more customers from out of the area. We had a record number of participants for the Duathlon, double last year’s attendance.
We need to continue these marketing efforts so we do not lose momentum.
The digital marketing program was funded by a grant from the Albany County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (ACCVB) and implemented by the National Travel Center of Lancaster, PA.
The year 2025 will mark the 200th Anniversary of the opening of the Erie Canal. Many events are being planned for 2025 between Albany and Buffalo and beyond to celebrate the canal’s completion. Declared the eighth Wonder of the World by many at the time, this gem sites in your very own back yard. But you don’t have to wait until 2025 to enjoy tours and shows.
A free, self-guided tour already exists called the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway. The Byway is a federally recognized, 26 mile drive between Waterford and Schenectady showcasing sites and sounds and a wide variety of activities.
If you have never seen the 70 foot high Cohoes Falls, go look at it after a really good rain storm. Follow the Mohawk River down to the junction with the Hudson River in Waterford. There see the remains of the Champlain Canal which was completed in 1822, before the Erie Canal. Then check out the Waterford flight – five locks lifting the Barge Canal 169 feet in just 1 1/2 miles to circumvent the Cohoes Falls. Above the falls, head north to Crescent and cross the Mohawk River on the Route 9 bridge. At this very spot, the Erie Canal crossed the Mohawk River on a huge 1,137 foot long stone bridge with 26 spans—the longest aqueduct on the entire canal system. For the next 13 miles to the west, the Erie Canal hugs the Mohawk’s shore through southern Saratoga County. Here along the Byway you can discover a preserved lock, a Whipple Truss bridge, three ferry landings pre-dating the canal, a birding sanctuary and several nature preseryes, plus places to fish or launch canoes and kayaks. There are plenty of opportunities to park your car and walk miles of trails. Some are along the shore of the barge canal; some are, in fact, on the original towpaths of the Ditch and Enlarged Canal still filled with water. Drive through the village of Vischer Ferry with its beautifully maintained canal-era homes and quaint general store. Then cross back over the Mohawk River on Route 146 at the canal town of Rexford. The Rexford Bridge is in the same spot where a second stone aqueduct carried the Erie Canal back to the south side of the Mohawk. After crossing the bridge, from a park just east of the traffic circle, you can see a few remains of the 14 original stone spans of the 610 foot aqueduct. Following Aqueduct Road to the west will bring you to Erie Boulevard in downtown Schenectady. This wide road is actually the canal filled in and paved over.
Special road signs mark the entire Byway route; maps and information available at mohawktowpath.org show the more than 30 designated stops where you can listen to audio descriptions of the history that happened here.
What are you waiting for? Let’s celebrate the opening of the Erie Canal now!
[This article by Nancy Papish first appeared in the ECOS Newsletter and is used here by permission. The Photograph is of lock 22 c. 1880 with Rexford in the background and the Upper Aqueduct across the Mohawk River to the left. Compare this photograph with the present day image used on the home page.]
Are you confused about George Westinghouse and his legacy. There were two George Westinghouse that made significant footprints within the Mohawk Towpath Byway corridor and world history.
George Westinghouse, Senior (1809 to 1884) of Central Bridge, New York improved and patented the threshing farm machine in 1836. In 1856 he moved his family and farm machinery business to Schenectady. Here he had better supply and shipping opportunities along the Erie Canal.
George Westinghouse, Junior (1846 to 1914) patented a rotary steam engine at age 19. He went on to invent the famous railway air break at age 22. This was patented in 1873. An electrical engineer, he was an early developer of alternating current (AC). This put him in competition with Thomas Edison’s work in direct current (DC) at what became General Electric. George Westinghouse, Jr relocated to Pennsylvania in the 1880s for access to steel and to continue his business interests. (This image at right is from Wikipedia entitled Westinghouse in 1884).
The Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway proudly partner with Old Songs, Inc to bring this unique program to the Clifton Park Halfmoon Library on September 24 at 2 PM free admission. This 90-minute musical concert, telling stories of the people, the places, and the history of the original and enlarged Erie Canal, Presented in song with narration.
The Concert features songs by folklorist and historian George Ward, Canadian Joe Grant, Dan Berggren & Jean Ritchie along with other traditional Erie songs.
Musicians and singers: George Wilson, fiddle, bass and banjo; Paul Draper, vintage mango; George Ward, concertina; Annie Rosen, ukulele; Jonny Rosen, guitar; Kate Blain, guitar; Alan Thompson, piano.
The program is produced and directed by our own Andy Spence. Old Songs, Inc. can be reached at P O Box 466, Voorheesville, NY. 12186. Their executive director is Joy Bennett email@example.com
Join us at the Clifton Park Halfmoon Library Saturday, September 24 at 2 PM. The program is free and open to the public.
Take your time traveling Riverview Road from the Halfmoon town line to VanVranken Road. On August 19 the Town of Clifton Park will be milling the pavement. This will be followed by paving August 23rd. Of course this is all weather dependent.
Did you ever wonder how many visitors we get on the byway on any particular day, or week, or month? How do we relate that to amount of money a visitor spends? How do we define a visitor? How important is the Byway to our local economy? These are all very important questions as you and I consider the value of our time as we spend volunteering for the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway. Is our time really worth about $30 or is it worth more? Do we get a “return on this investment?”
Since the pandemic outbreak it has been interesting to count the number of cars in the parking lot of various sites along Riverview Road and in particular the various states represented by the license plates or tags. Are these numbers significant when you consider the numbers if bicyclists that are on the Towpath Trail who may have biked here or after parking at a remote location.
Are the statistics for the calls to the self-guided cell phone based tour service significant, since someone could be calling from his location, for example, in Phoenix, AZ just for curiosity. But he or she might be planning a vacation.
“…well promoted Byways that feature heritage and cultural locations along the roadway giving visitors plenty of place to visit and spend money, complimented with destination distinctive accommodations and local cuisine, can feasibly generate between $250,000 and $450,000 per mile, per year in visitor spending.” – Dr. Maree Forbes, National Travel Center.
I say our volunteer time is worth a lot more than $30 per hour! Many thanks for your help during the year.
Join us Saturday, August 20 for a Rotary Canalway Challenge. Meet at the historic Niskayuna Train Station, Lions Park on Rosendale Road at 9 AM. We will bike, scooter, run in either direction: to Niskayuna GE Corp Research and back, or toward Colonie’s Mohawk Landing Park and back. We will share refreshments at Old Niskayuna Train Station Lions Park, Niskayuna. Rain date August 21 at 1 PM. #canalwaychallenge