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.


The Mohawk Towpath Byway had an information booth today at the Adirondack Sports and Fitness Health Fair for the Mohawk Hudson Marathon.  There were two types of people who visited the booth: long distance runners and friends or families accompanying them.  For the athletes we were trying to interest them in a fun recovery workout next Sunday morning, the Mohawk Towpath Byway Duathlon.

The other group consisted of family members or friends that are in-town with their favorite athlete and might be interested in discovering something new in the afternoon or later in the weekend.  We were trying to encourage them to discover something unique along the Byway corridor.  We provided them with a copy of our self guided cell phone based tour.

While I was doing a stint in the booth we got one registration for the Duathlon.  However, there also was a spike in on-line registrations today.  It will also be interesting to see if there are a spie in the number of calls to the cell phone tour number 518-649-9990.

I would like to thank Mary MacDonald of the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway, Chris Brownell, who has, over the years, volunteered many hours, many times for the Byway, and Darryl Caron who has helped the Byway publicize some of our stories and events.  Each were an immense help with the booth and the Byway!

Good luck to all the runners in this great event along the Mohawk Towpath Byway corridor.

Work Together!

Sara Foss in her Tuesday, October 4 column in the Gazette is so correct, “spot-on” with her conclusion that we all have to work together to make this Capital Region a world class destination. Right now the international traveller may venture out of the New York Metropolitan area to visit the New York State Museum or “the track”. But then they’re to the airport and gone. If it’s a nice day they might notice the expansive grey rock outcrops or an unnaturally straight ribbon of reflected sky as they look out the plane’s porthole and wonder what else they missed. But they are gone.

The expansive grey rock outcrop, of course, mark the northern edge of the Helderbergs.  The unnaturally straight ribbon of reflected sky is the old Erie Canal through the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.  No matter where you go on this earth you can find a person who has a perception of the Erie Canal as well as the Pyramids or the Great Wall.  She or he might not speak your language, but the words are international.

By working together we, no matter which county we call home, can share our varied heritage, show off our changing seasons, draw them to our unique recreational resources, and share our “sense of place”. Who knows, the international traveller might even come back for another discovery. We in turn might learn more of the story of our guests and where they call home.

Towpath Trail Update

towpathtrailConstruction continues on the Towpath Trail.  Clearing a grubbing of the entire length (shown above in red) will be completed shortly.    The contractor is trying to move a barge into Weger’s Pond outlet on which a pile driver can be mounted.  The piles are necessary as a foundation for the 140 foot bridge across the outlet.  The bridge will arrive in 20 foot sections.  The fabricated bridge will be lifted in place by two “small” cranes at either end of the trail.

This dump truck backed over a half mile into the woods to get a load of debris!

This view at left was taken from atop the farmer’s bridge abutment to the east of Clutes Dry Dock. You can see that the trail is wide enough for a good size excavator as well as the construction sized dump truck.  The truck backed over a half mile into the woods to get a load of debris.

This week the Preserve is closed to all but duck hunters, so work on the eastern Halfmoon end of the trail will be the focus.

Work on the 10 foot wide stone dust trail is expected to be complete by the end of the year.  Its is truly exciting to see the progress.  This will be a wonderful recreational recourse for the Byway corridor.

Towpath Trail

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 Towpath Trail with the 1842 enlarged Erie Canal beyond the trees to the left.

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.