Turtle Talk

For centuries during the first warm days of spring female turtles leave water’s edge and start up the shore to lay their eggs in many places along Riverview Road in Clifton Park to Rexford.  Mature turtles of all sizes can be seen crossing the pavement on their way to higher ground with sandy soil, ideal for nurturing turtle eggs until the fry hatch.  This can be dangerous for the turtles because drivers don’t always see them even in bright spring sunlight.

SaveTurtlesOn May 25, 2017, Junior Girl Scout Troop 2158, in conjunction with the Town of Clifton Park, ended their very busy year with a Turtle Talk presentation at the Vischer Ferry Historic and Nature Preserve an important part of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway.  With the installation of 7 new Turtle Crossing signs in the area of the Vischer Ferry Historic and Nature Preserve, the troop assisted in the unveiling signs along with town officials.  The girls presented facts about painted and snapping turtles, both of which inhabit the area and are often seen crossing the roads.  The troop helped to alert the public as to the importance of these reptiles and what to do if one is found in a life-threatening location such as the road.

Knowing that the turtles born this year could still be alive in 2047, the girls were enthusiastic about turtle preservation.  As part of the initiative to help retain this natural, cultural, and scenic area, Troop 2158 is grateful for the opportunity to be part of it.  Besides, the girls loved crossing the Whipple Bridge, walking the towpath, and seeing the turtles in the water!

Look for the new “turtle crossing” signs as you travel the Byway  …and watch for the turtles!

-Contributed by Isabel Prescott

When you see this sign…

experimntlsign7While visiting one of the historic sites or other features along the Mohawk Towpath Byway what do you do when you see this sign?  Your opinion means a lot to us and to future visitors to the Byway.  Please answer the following question by clicking here.  We are trying to figure out how to make the Mohawk Towpath Byway’s cell phone tour service more usable and more accessible.  The Coalition received a modest, but very helpful grant through the Albany County Convention and Tourism Bureau and the Community Foundation of the Capital Region.  How do we use these funds strategically?  Your ideas and perspective are appreciated!

Newly Arrived


Here’s a “reach stick” in action.  Only 32 inches long they are ideal for litter pickup, better by far than using your back.  …footwear not included.

The Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition has purchased several new “reach sticks” just in time for the spring cleanup along the Byway.  These will be in use on the April 22 Canal Clean Sweep events along the Byway.

Ask your municipality highway department if they can let you borrow their similar equipment for the weekend.  If they don’t have enough you are welcome to borrow these while supplies last.  Contact your representative to the Byway Coalition to make arrangements or leave a message at 518-406-8610 and someone will get back to you especially if you reference “Canal Clean Sweep” in your message.

Family Moonlight Ski


Sharing marshmallows and hot cider and cocoa after skiing the canal towpaths – photo by Charlie Huff

Moonlight skis are hard to schedule because of changeable weather and even more changeable snow conditions.  The trick is to have them several days before the full moon so that the moon is overhead during the evening.

February 9 we had perfect conditions. Not only did we have an excellent moonlit trails and five inches of new snow, we had eight skiers turn out to kick off the Clifton Park Winterfest.  We skied along the original 1825 Erie Canal,  across the towpath for the 1842 enlarged Erie Canal and back along the now abandoned first town road and the historic reconstructed cast iron Truss Bridge designed by Union College graduate Squire Whipple.  The structural members of the bridge were cast in 1862.


Bill Koch Youth Ski League skier is king of the mountain – photo by Uwe Wiedmann

To share all that history along with a perfect and memorable moonlit evening reminds us how fortunate we are to have these recreational opportunities right here in our back yard, on the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway.

High Marks

cropped-NYmohawk-SquireWhippleBridge_m11.jpgDuring the year we took advantage of a tool developed by the National Scenic Byway Foundation to evaluate the effectiveness and strengths of the Mohawk Towpath Byway. The evaluation reviewed our organizational development, capacity and adaptability; our finances, fundraising and sustainability; our outreach, partnerships and advocacy; our recognition, identity, marketing, image and communications; our visitor experience; and our documented impact.

We scored an impressive 84% overall in the evaluation.  In the words of the report, we “…achieved an advanced level of sustainable excellence, focus on ensuring that your group’s high level of capacity is maintained while also maintaining your knowledge base and building upon your key strengths.”

Congratulations to all our volunteers and communities that make the Byway a success.  May we have another successful year in 2017!

Stewardship Hike

dscn2233On February 3 the Town of Clifton Park will be hosting a stewardship hike starting from the Ferry Drive entrance to the Vischer Ferry Nature & Historic Preserve.  This walk led by Jennifer Viggiani often attracts botanists, natural history buffs, birders and other interesting naturalists who share their enthusiasm and their perspectives of what we see on the hikes.  This is an excellent opportunity to identify recreational and stewardship needs of the Preserve and get some idea about how wildlife is surviving the winter.

Dress accordingly and bring boots, snowshoes, crampons, cross country skis or whatever improves your winter mobility.  Don’t forget the camera!

I would like to see this type of stewardship expanded to other public facilities along the Byway.  From time to time…

  • the Spindle City Historic Society sponsors walks along the old Erie Canal locks that now line City parks
  • the Environmental Clearing House of Schenectady (ECOS) conducts hikes along recreational features in the western part of the Byway corridor; and
  • the Waterford Canal Society explores the current and old Erie Canal features in the Town of Waterford.

Let’s work together to establish and annual schedule of these activities and have a calendar of events available to our local residents as well as our Byway visitors.  This type of opportunity is what makes a visit to the Mohawk Towpath Byway a memorable experience.

I hope to see you on February 3 at 1 PM overlooking the Mohawk River at the end of Ferry Drive.

Annual Meeting

The public is invited to our Annual Meeting on December 13 at 7 PM in the community room of the historic Grooms Tavern.  The meeting will be brief and to the point.  Desert will follow with a great raffle of prizes including a weekend get-away at the new Marriott Courtyard at Mohawk Harbor, a Rotary Red gift basket, a tote of local apples, and other prizes.Xmas

Don’t miss you chance to win. Renew your membership and increase your chances; bring a friend who joins and you both increase your chances to win!

Come mingle and jingle on the Mohawk Towpath Byway.

Cell Tour Success

I had the privilege of representing the Mohawk Towpath Byway today as we received a grant from the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau of The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region to implement and improve connection to the Byway’s cell phone based self guided tour. Congratulations to all of us who are helping to make this project a success!

experimntlsign7We will be seeing more of these signs starting on the eastern end of the Byway.  With more signs we are sure to get more use of the self guided tour.  With more use we may finally see some meaningful visitor data at least for the demographic that uses personal electronic devises as they tour the Byway.

Curious to hear what is all the fuss?  Call 518-649-9990 to hear what this is all about …and you don’t need a cell phone to try it.  Stop 10, 11 or stop 12 are the cool ones in Albany County!

Duathlon Success

finishbyb12As we wrap up the details of this year’s duathlon I can’t help but be grateful to all our volunteers for what they do to make the event a success.  It all starts with a term that we don’t use enough, “stewardship,” continues with a mantra of “safety,” under laid by a sense of “fun,”  with a lot of “teamwork” thrown in, and wrapped up with “satisfaction”.  In many ways the event, meant to be a fund raising event, just reflects what goes on every day on the Byway.

Stewardship is what we all do, day to day, to make our communities in the best shape for our visitors whether from next door or from the other side of the earth.  It may be keeping ourselves and our homes in the best of shape, working with friends to improve our communities recreational assets, or a roadside cleanup to make it easier for highway maintenance and safety.

Safety means we had done our homework and field work to make sure we had clean roadways (other than the plethora of “political speak” and one porcupine carrion in an unused travel lane).  We had sufficient volunteers to keep normal highway traffic civil, participants on course, and EMTs on standby in case of an incident.

Volunteers on the CourseFor fun there were exciting moments, jubilant finishers, smiles, awards and rewards, constructive feedback, sated appetites among fall foliage at it’s absolute peak.

Teamwork was amazing from roadside cleanups, to packet stuffing, communication efforts, policing and marshaling, results posting, post race feed crews, and cleanup crews.

The more analytical of us insist on numbers to help define our success.  We had 121 participants registered, 53 of them were “serious athletes”, 18 of them in teams, and an amazing 47.6 % female.  A total of 105 people started, one biker was successfully returned to the start after a tire blew, and 104 victorious.  We had a record 11 paid event sponsors.  One of these sponsors has employees scooping 200 generous victory scoops of ice cream for competitors and volunteers over the next few weeks. When the books are finally closed we will have raised over $5,700 for the Byway Coalition and Friends of the Byway.

No matter how you look at it we all had a good time, can share and celebrate the success, and rest peacefully on our satisfaction.


Photos on this page by Base Twelve Photography.



“Hi, I’m Rick Lage from Manotick, Ontario.  My wife and I come down every year to this race and you folks do such a great job!  It’s the only race we do in New York State and we love it!  All those out on the course and the great people, we come back every year!  Thank you.”  The words and the warm handshake left me speechless.

That’s the sort of feedback that warns my heart to the point that I have to share it with the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.  In deed, these people from a rural suburb of Ottawa have, for the last five years, made the event an international experience by driving four and a half hours to share what we have to offer.

With that I want to thank each and every one of you out volunteers for your help in making the Duathlon and the Mohawk Towpath Byway a success.

Over the next few days I will be crunching the numbers, collecting facts, and linking photographs for our sanctioning body, for the respective Boards of Directors, and for our own gratification.  But finishing the day with a safe race, happy competitors at the awards ceremony, and competitors and hosts sharing the post race feed… what could be more perfect?  Thank you, each of you.