Thanks to the Schenectady County Historical Society for the opportunity to participate in the Canal Fest at the Mabee Farm! With over 500 cyclists coming through during the morning and the hundreds of people to the other attractions and activities during the day there was plenty of interest and excitement for a broad demographic. Our booth’s placement just inside the the Dutch barn, with folk music nearby, local food venders. cooling breezes off the river we had plenty of curious, knowledgeable visitors and much interest in canals and the recreation venues around our area. Thanks also to Nancy Papish for these photographs and to her and Maryanne Mackey for help with the booth and visiting with “our public.”
During 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!
Early advocates of the Mohawk Towpath Byway envisioned a reconstructed Towpath through the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve into the Town of Halfmoon. The eastern end of the trail will connect to Canal Road, rise a slope in a northerly direction just west of the abutment of the I-87 Northway southbound right of way and drop in elevation to meet the historic 1842 Erie Canal towpath and then proceed westerly across the outlet of Weger’s Pond, pass on the south side of the Canal in the vicinity of Clutes Dry Dock, and emerge on the Water Authority Access Road in the Preserve.
The two Towns began the project in very early spring by cutting larger trees along what will be a 10 foot wide trail. The trees had to be removed before the end of March when endangered species start their return for the nesting season. This is in one of the remotest parts of the two towns.
Construction crews are now just east of Clutes Dry Dock near the power lines with a chipper and saws clearing for better access and more refined trail work.
It is hard to imagine this being part of the major route through the Appalachian Mountains almost 200 years ago. By 1842 more than 100 canal boats a day would pass through this part of the Erie Canal, propelled by draft animals, mostly mules on this south berm of the Erie Canal. By December we will all be able to hike the reconstructed trail from the Preserve through to Canal Road then east along the Crescent Park Trail to the Route 9 Bridge at Crescent.
An interesting sound as we recreate within the Mohawk Towpath Byway corridor is the song of the Catbird. Audubon publications say that the bird got its name because it sounds like an cat’s, “Meow.” It’s a unique sound in trees and low brush, and, usually, has two very distinct syllables, like “me-ow”. If it were a cat making that sound it would certainly be in distress, and from a bird, I first wondered if there were something wrong with it’s voice mechanism. The sound is so gravelly.
The bird is hard to spot because of it’s drab grey or brown coloration. To find the source of the call, one needs to stop and wait for the bird to move.
What is really curious is, in this area, the Catbird’s call can even take on a sound like, “Er-ie.” When I have heard a Catbird in other areas of the northeast, I have never heard “Er-ie,” just the distinct, “Me-ow.”
What do you think? [Other than the fact that I am an Erie Canal fanatic and have “really gone to the birds.” …and further I apologize to former fans of Red Barber.] Whatever you’re thinking get out and take your observations now. The Catbird seems to be one of the last species to arrive in the spring and one of the first to migrate to warmer climes when the nesting season is over.
The Byway provides unique experiences, and as I have said many times before, exhibits change daily.
The Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway is a membership organization of enthusiasts dedicated to preserving the historic, cultural, natural, recreational, agricultural, and scenic resources within the corridor of the Mohawk Towpath Byway. That’s our story. Or should I say, that’s my “elevator speech.”
Defining our story is the number one priority of the Friends.
…it isn’t just one story, but it is multiple versions of one story that is tailored to the various audiences that will be hearing the story. We may even want to encourage people to select their particular favorite audience, then craft the story so it will resonate with that particular audience,
points out Ray Patterson, one of our charter members, who lives in West Virginia.
Let me add that each of the Friends of the Byway has a number of stories about our communities and our heritage. Most of us can tell one or more personal stories that has developed as they have volunteered for the Byway over the years. Each of us has one or more stories that they remember from family, friends, second person accounts, books, or teachers.
This body of knowledge with hundreds of stories make up the Byway story. This rich heritage is what brings our Byway to life. Whether its a Native People’s story, natural history, colonial history, stories from the Industrial Revolution, Erie Canal stories, local genealogy, or stories of our communities these all are part of the Byway story and need to be preserved. Some of these stories change over time as more research in local history, archeology and geology adds more depth and authenticity.
It is important for us, individually, and as an organization to hold on to these stories and preserve them for future generations.
Visitors to the Byway want to hear (or read) these stories as a part of their Byway experience. When we repeat a Byway story with authenticity we provide the listener with an intimate look at what makes our Mohawk Towpath Byway unique among a network of 150 America’s Byways®.
New interpretive kiosks have been installed along the Mohawk Towpath Byway to help tell the story and highlight the significance of the individual sites. One will be located at the Old Military Crossing of the Mohawk River between the Towns of Colonie and Waterford. This crossing was used during the Revolutionary War during parts of the year when water was too high to cross at Waterford. Today this is the site of the Crescent Dam on the Cohoes Crescent Road.
The other new kiosk is located at the Lock 7 Overlook at the foot of Sugarhill Road in the Town of Clifton Park. This is the location of one of the most challenging locations for construction of the original Erie Canal prior to its opening in 1825. Before the advent of steam powered excavation equipment the work on the shale bedrock was done by hand labor. Canallers later identified this site as the “young engineer’s cut” and was the deepest cut along the entire Erie Canal with stretched 363 miles across New York State. This is the site boasts an excellent panoramic view overlooking the Mohawk River. This is also the western gateway to the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.
“These interpretive kiosks were originally envisioned during early planning and preparation of the Mohawk Towpath Byway’s Corridor Management Plan almost 15 years ago,” admitted Eric Hamilton, Executive Director of the Byway. “The kiosks are funded by a Federal Highway Administration Byway Grant through the New York State Department of Transportation Byway Program.
“Uncovering these bits of history along the Erie Canal has been a rewarding process,” adds John Scherer, Town of Clifton Park Historian. “The Mohawk Towpath Byway has many stories from natural history, Native Peoples, and generations of local residents. These kiosks provide a glimpse of some of these stories.”
Colonie Town Historian Kevin Franklin observes that a lot of America’s history happened right here in our own back yards. “Providing these kiosks helps to summarize these stories and tease visitors and local residents to learn more of their community’s heritage,” adds Franklin. The kiosks are on public property and accessible year round. The kiosks also include a QR code that provides access via smart phone to an audio recording by local people explaining the significance of each of the sites.
One of our more successful events for attracting attention to the Mohawk Towpath Byway is at the Adirondack Sports and Fitness Summer Expo. Held the first full weekend in March, as people are making plans for the warmer months, the Expo attracts many regional recreational enthusiasts. This past weekend was no exception.
Many thanks to Maryanne Mackey, Susan and Alan Lasker, Henny and Harold O’Grady, Joanne Coons, and Paul Olund for their excellent and enthusiastic help this weekend!