Bridged!

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The first half of the 100 foot pedestrian bridge arrived for installation at the site of a former farmers bridge just east of Clutes Dry Dock. The photo was captured by Larry Syzdek.

This is the crowning touch to improving recreational access to the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve. Construction including approach pathways, parking lot improvements, and soil stabilization will be complete by the end of October. Once complete the bridge will be opened for our (public) use.

We have once again bridged the historic 1842 enlarged Erie Canal. The farm fields to the right have long been abandoned and is now a remote forested “important birding area”. The Community Connector Trail behind trees to the right was (from 1842 to 1907) the towpath for the Erie Canal. the To the left is the site of a bustling canal community also abandoned in 1907 and now ripe for archaeological investigation and interpretation.

“…low bridge! Everybody down…”

To see a video of the action from fastening together to actual placement watch a video from the Town of Clifton Park’s FaceBook page.

Farmer’s Bridge

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The re-construction of the Farmer’s Bridge east of Clutes Dry Dock is progressing. A good vantage point without crossing a “trail closed” sign is from the west side of Clutes Dry Dock. Access from the small trailhead across from Male Drive. Then hike east a half mile down the historic 1825 Erie Canal towpath.

I can only speculate that they are working on the temporary crane pad and the forms for the bridge footings. This is the view from the footbridge that Leo Coons and his Scout troop recently built.

A week ago Sue Lasker captured this image on the south side of the Towpath Community Connector Trail.  The trail is shown in left foreground.
A week ago Sue Lasker captured this image on the south side of the Towpath Community Connector Trail. The trail is shown in left foreground.

Finale

Or is it a new beginning?

Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway installed the final of a dozen interpretive kiosks envisioned in the Byway’s Corridor Management Plan almost twenty years ago. It started out as a cool, cloudy Saturday. Two hours later the job was done and the posts set plumb and true, ready for the first eye curious about our agricultural heritage or about recreation on the Mohawk.

Innovation was the watch word for this kiosk. Federal Byway funds were dwindling and we needed a less expensive way to produce the panels. Metal panels were used with a graffiti resistant finish. These panels were glued to an exterior plywood with a urethane based caulk. The panels were then mounted in a frame of cedar.

Once in place in two excavated post holes the holes were backfilled with an expanding foam backfill. Bill Gutelius steadied the kiosk for a critical 15 minutes while the backfill set. Nancy Papish maintained an eye on the vertical plumb bubble.

This kiosk is located in Mohawk Landing Preserve on the southern boundary of Riverview Orchards on Riverview Road in Rexford. Check it out on your next visit to the Byway. The spot is quite accessible just a short walk from the parking lot, at the end of the first board walk. You can see the kiosk from the entrance (note the handicap parking space in the foreground and the kiosk just to Nancy Papish’s right in the background.

Besides Nancy Papish’s help We are most grateful for Bill Gutelius’ assistance with construction of the frame, and hauling the finished kiosk assembly to the site. In short this kiosk installation cost about half the cost of conventional polycarbonate resin panels with square aluminum frame.

Exciting Things Coming

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Some exciting projects are in the works to improve the recreation facilities in the middle of the Mohawk Towpath Byway’s corridor. The Town of Clifton Park and their contractor will be holding a reconstruction meeting early in June. The most notable improvement will be a new pedestrian bridge over the 1842 enlarged canal east of Clute’s Dry Dock, with associated trail and parking improvements. Construction will be happening this summer into early fall, with timing riding on delivery of a pre-fabricated pedestrian bridge.  Arrangements are being made with the Town’s contractor, Bette & Cring. A pre-construction meeting is planned for next week, at which time we’ll expect to have a more detailed schedule.   Barton & Loguidice will be conducting construction inspection on the Town’s behalf.  

The entrance to the preserve at Clutes Dry Dock will change dramatically over the summer and may be closed during critical stages of construction.

A second project to construct a footbridge to the right in the background will connect to the 1825 towpath trail. Eagle Scout candidate Leo Coons is organizing this effort. This project will start this week as timber beams crafted by Amish are delivered! 

Docks for hand-launched car top craft: canoes/kayaks within the Clute’s Dry Dock basin will be removed for repair and maintenance offsite. The docks will be returned and set back into place once the main bridge construction project is substantially complete. 

Spring is Coming…

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As the snow and ice retreats we are starting to plan our activities and projects for the coming year. We have a limited budget but several low cost projects include…

The foot bridge on the 1825 towpath trail just west of the Water Authority Access Road in the Vischer Ferry Preserve. The deck needs work so that it is safe for pedestrian, mountain bike, and light trail maintenance equipment.

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

Interpretive Signs within the Vischer Ferry Preserve need to be cleaned. These are lacquered metal panels that tend to attract a grimy dark film over the years that needs to be washed and waxed with a quality automotive wax. We have done this in past years as a “flash mob” activity.

Self Guided Tour needs to be updated; narratives shortened so not to loose audience and add historic photos to bring the history of the site to life. We also need to add archived Erie Blvd narratives.

Wayfinding Signs need to be replaced. After 10 years some of the signs have faded, especially the south facing signs. This will start by inventorying the signs that need to be replaced and then working with the Town Highway Departments to install the replacements.

Duathlon planning is high on our priority list. This event highlights the recreational features of the Byway and provides a substantial amount of the organization’s revenue. We need sponsors and volunteers to pitch in to make this a success!

Writing and photography helps provide content for this blog as well as publicity and keeping our fellow volunteers energized and informed. Volunteering to “man” our booth at various functions provides an opportunity to “meet our public.”

Building a frame and installing an interpretive sign at the Mohawk Landing Park in Rexford. This will round out the interpretive signs envisioned 20 years ago when the Corridor Management Plan was prepared. The panels described our agricultural heritage and growing leisure time during the Industrial Revolution.

Baking healthy snacks for our work details, meetings, and events is always appreciated and helps keep the enthusiasm and energy flowing.

Roadside Cleanups twice a year where you live or work helps keep the Byway attractive for our visitors. Adopt a segment of roadway and take credit with a sign that recognizes your stewardship.

If you would like to help out with any one of these projects please let us know. Obviously some may have better appeal than others and you are certainly allowed to “cherry pick” the one or two that most appeal to you!


Comment: An informal poll of active members the Friends listed the above projects in order of priority.

  • Repair footbridge (done early April)
  • Cleaning interpretive signs (done April 14)
  • Planning Duathlon (unfortunately canceled June 9)
  • Building a Frame for interpretive sign (design complete Apr 28, Installation completed August 10)
  • Replacing Faded Wayfinding signs (inventory under way)
  • Up Dating the Self-Guided Tour (work in progress)
  • Writing and Photography (continuing)
  • Roadside Cleanups (scheduled for October) and
  • Refreshments for meetings and work crews (Moved to virtual meetings).

Three write-in activities included develop public access along the Byway in new locations, partnering with other groups to do joint projects and events, and representing the Byway in the National Scenic Byway Foundation.

– added by Eric Hamilton, Apr 13, 2020.

– Updated August 29, 2020.

Micro Water Cycle

Temperature was in low teens when I took this early morning shot. The air was calm except when disturbed by an occasional passing vehicle. When I turned around and faced into the sun I realized that there where snow flurries of large ice crystals precipitating!

What was happening is the warm moist air near the water surface was rising up the face of the escarpment below. No doubt the weak sunlight on the rock face below helped heat a bit as well. As the the warmer, moisture laden air crested the bluff it “supercooled”. Ice crystals started forming in the super saturated air and drifted over the landscape sparkling and diffusing the early morning light. As the crystals grew too heavy they precipitated onto the pavement where the melted or sublimated water started a new cycle.

I have felt a mist on my face on a cool, cloudless summer day when biking along this section of the Byway. I had assumed that a gentle breeze must be picking up water droplets from water cascading over the escarpment. Now I am convinced that it was just warm moist air from below being super- cooled at the crest of the escarpment and forming a mist.

A safety note. This is a great place to photograph a beautiful panorama on the Mohawk Towpath Byway. Several tips:

  • Park well away from busy Riverview Road. I parked several hundred feet north on Knott Road and walked back. Or lift your bicycle to the other side of the guide rail.
  • Wear bright clothing so that motorists can see you.
  • Pick a light traffic time of day on a weekend.
  • Listen and look both ways before any sudden moves.
  • Bike right; walk left!

Giving Tuesday

On Thursday we gave thanks. Friday we had some good deals. Saturday highlighted small businesses. Monday was the day for cyber deals. Here it is Tuesday, a time to give back.

This is a great day to renew your membership in the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.  Or better yet give a membership to someone who loves their community, the outdoor experience, their heritage.  This is a time to make a donation to the Byway Coalition* in memory of a departed friend or family member.  This donation will be tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Help us to develop the story of the Byway and the Canal.  One of our goals is to spread the word of the richness of our area – not only it’s history, but it’s recreational offerings throughout the Byway – including the Mohawk River.  We need input to develop projects that insure the future of this important resource. – Susan Lasker

Also spread the word about the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Byway set for 7 PM Tuesday, January 14, at the historic Grooms Tavern.  Refreshments will be served.

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* The easiest way to donate to the Byway is to drop a check in the mail to Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway, P O Box 90, Clifton Park, N Y  12065.

Visit the Byway

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Now that the vegetation is down and the seasons are changing visit the Mohawk Towpath Byway. It. is amazing what you can see that was not obvious a month ago! The pesky summer insects are gone. The water chestnuts that clogged our shallow waterways have gone to seed. If the sun comes out and the air warms get out in your kayak.

IMG_4928RYacco

– photo by Ricard Yacco

If the sun doesn’t come out bundle up and take a hike on the Towpath Trail. It looks entirely different now. You can pick out historic features, even remnants of an earlier time like foundation walls and storage pits for ice cut from the river surface. You can also get a feel of how important the Mohawk River was in everyday life.

With the first snow and the low angle of the sun some of the secrets of the land and how early settlements and farming modified the landscape. Animal tracks in the snow give clues how they survive through the winter. Take notes, take pictures, and make your own tracks.

17th Annual Mohawk Towpath Byway Duathlon

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At 6:40 AM I realized I was kicking frost as I scrambled to get out the parking signs in Isabel Prescott’s back yard. The sky was mottled with “wave clouds” each illuminated by fiery red light anticipating dawn.

This would be one of the coldest starts to the Duathlon in our 17 year history.

Shortly after 8:30 the competitors were off. Photo by Tracy Perry.

For a few statistics:

  • 92 people registered (down from previous years)
  • 55 individuals finished
  • 9 teams finished (an all time record!)
  • 18 Byway volunteers most are members of the Friends of the Byway
  • 9 Radio operators provided great communication
  • 5 Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Volunteers
  • 2 deputies from the Saratoga County Sheriff Department
  • 1 NY State Trooper
  • 1 extraordinary I T person
  • more than 3 staff from the Town of Clifton Park
  • the fantastic crew from Riverview Orchard
  • the print shop crew from Modern Press
  • 3 timing crew
  • 11 sponsors for which we are most grateful
  • 11 event patrons
  • 2 Bar-B-Q caterers with scrumptious culinary results.

They all made a memorable event, assured that we all did it safely, and cleaned up before the showers.

For all these folks we are most grateful and share in the satisfaction of a job well done. Thank you!

Early Frontier

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The Mohawk Towpath Byway’s latest kiosk will be dedicated on Saturday, September 28 at 11:30 AM. The kiosk is located strategically near the bike/pedestrian path entrance to the City of Schenectady at Gateway Landing Park. The kiosk describes the role the historic Stockade area played as the early Frontier. The reverse panel explains the role of bateau as the preferred watercraft before the Erie Canal improved navigation along the Mohawk Valley.

Join us for a tuly unique historical experience! Together we’ll reflect on and celebrate the renaissance of Schenectady’s waterfront. The 2nd Albany Militia, expert 18th century re-enactors, will be on station to show off their reproduction bateau. Of course, well have complimentary refreshments!

Nearby, the Stockade Historic district will be running its biennial Walkabout – a showcase of music, costumed interpreters well as many of the oldest and most beautiful homes in Schenectady (tickets $25 each). Truly, it will be a full-day celebration of Schenectady’s storied past.

The kiosk was funded in part by the Federal Highway Administration and administered by the New York State Scenic Byways Program at the New York State Department of Transportation. A local match for this funding was provided by the coalition of municipalities along the Byway corridor including Waterford, Cohoes, Halfmoon, Colonie, Clifton Park, Niskayuna and Schenectady. Content for the interpretive message was a joint effort by the Stockade Association, Schenectady County Historical Society, miSci, and Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway. Schenectady County Department of Public Works installed the kiosk during the summer.

To get to the Gateway Landing Park from State Street in Schenectady take the exit ramp on the right as you approach the Western Gateway Bridge. Look for the Rotary International sign on the right. From Scotia take the first exit ramp on the right to Schenectady County Community College and keep turning right under the approach to the Western Gateway Bridge. Gateway Landing Park will be on the left.