Due to rain overnight and prediction of more rain and thunderstorms this afternoon our National Trails Day ride into history is cancelled. No postponement, just cancelled. Join us in early August to Bike the Byway. Sorry for any inconvenience and dashing your expectations.
How much do you know about the Erie Canal? Did you realize that it went right through Rexford and Clifton Park along the Mohawk River? When it was completed in 1825, the canal was considered one of the wonders of the new world and was a sense of intense pride to New York and the nation. The Erie Canal was more than twice as long as any canal in Europe and boasted heroic feats of engineering including dramatic aqueducts like the one built at Rexford.
According to Doris Schaus of the Rexford family, at the time of the planning, Edward Rexford was an acquaintance of Governor Dewitt Clinton and helped, through his political connections, to encourage stopovers and other amenities at his village of Rexford Flats along the canal.
There is no doubt about the amazing influence that the canal had on the lives along its route including the community of Rexford Flats and the Town of Clifton Park. The Rexford family was instrumental in helping to shape the economy, culture, character, and identity of what became our community.
The Rexford House still stands as a monument to our heritage on the southwest corner of Rt. 146 and Riverview Road today. The Knowltons, a family who owned the land where the present-day Edison Club is located, were intermarried with the Rexfords, and together they were buried in a family plot on Riverview Road. Eventually, many of the tombstones were moved to Vale Cemetery in Schenectady.
A new historic marker will be erected in June 2016 at what was the site of the Rexford Flats Cemetery across the road from the Edison Club. At a town board meeting, descendants of these two families, Barbara Scott from Chicago and Jackie Crucien from Pennsylvania, will be gifting the sign to the Town of Clifton Park as a memorial to honor the importance of their families in helping to shape our community of today.
So as you drive by the new marker, be sure to take a look and remember the significance of the Erie Canal and the families of our past in shaping our lives of today.
Brand new on the Byway are experimental signs known to traffic engineers as tourism oriented directional (TOD) signs. This set of signs located near the intersection of Riverview Road and Sugar Hill Road are intended to reinforce that the traveler is still on the Mohawk Towpath Byway. The second sign post, further in the distance, is meant to suggest the traveler visit the scenic overlook of Lock 7 Dam.
It is important to the Byway that we have a balance between developments on the byway and maintaining our natural, historic and scenic resources. This is another example of the need to bring attention to our resources with out over doing the number of signs on the Byway.
We would really like your thoughts on the new signs:
- Did you know we have a scenic over look at the foot of Sugar Hill Road?
- Did you know that this is the most western access to the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve?
- Have you visited the interpretive sign located at the Overlook?
- Do you know the historic significance of the “young engineer’s cut?”
- Do these signs contribute to the Byway experience or are they too much?
The signs were purchased as a part of our federally funded interpretive sign project and installed recently by the Clifton Park Highway Department.
If successful we will also be installing similar signs on the Cohoes Crescent Road to bring attention to the historic military crossing at what is now the site of the Crescent Dam. Both of these sites are interpreted by local voices on the Byway’s self guided cell phone tour: Lock 7 Overlook is 649-9990 stop 6 and the Old Military Crossing in stop 11.
The Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition is a regional partnerships of communities that balances the promotion of local interests with the protection of scenic, historic, recreational, natural, and agricultural recourses.
So begins our Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Business Plan of 2013 – 2014. Our major objectives are:
- Inform and Promote the Byway
- Protect and Enhance Byway Resources
- Build and Reinforce Partnerships
- Refine Internal Operations
- Build Transportation Partnerships
Are these objectives still relevant today?
Please join us on Friday, March 18, 2016, at 9:00 AM at the Halfmoon Town Hall to map out our course to meet our vision for the next five years. It is hoped that a majority of the Board of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition will be participating. The public is invited and encouraged to share in this process.
Lunch will be provided as we wrap up the session.
Construction on the Towpath Connecting Trail has started! Town of Halfmoon crews are clearing the path from Canal Road under I-87 Northway Bridges and working west toward Wagers Pond outlet.
Town of Clifton Park crews are working east from the Water Authority Access Road and historic Clutes Dry Dock area approaching Wagers Pond Outlet from the other direction.
The whole point of these efforts is to have clearing complete before the nesting season begins, typically at the beginning of April.
A Google map of the progress is here… [if I can keep up the pace with documentation]. This Project was one of the major recommendations that came in the Mohawk Towpath Byway’s Corridor Management Plan when it was accepted twelve years ago. Not only will the reconstructed trail join our two municipalities at the remote southern boundary, it will open up recreational opportunities worthy of a world class recreational destination and will complete one of our principal stories. It’s the story of the Erie Canal, the Waterway West and the role our communities played in the westward expansion of the country and in the Industrial Revolution. Wagers Pond Outlet is very close to one of the sites in the Mohawk River that was source of native people’s folklore, but that’s another story for another day.
Gateways to our communities should make a statement that the traveler has arrived, further, that this place is special and unique.
Most of us enter our area once or twice a day using a I-87 Northway exit 7, 8, 8A or 9. Look around these locations that we take for granted the next time you arrive. They are really no different or unique than any other gateway to any other commercial center in North America.
Then enter our community on the Byway. We experience something like entering the door to our home that the family uses. It is much more intimate and unique. A good example of this is the entrance to the city of Schenectady on Aqueduct Road. You have passed through the more rural areas of Niskayuna and enter the well kept urban neighborhood of northern Schenectady. You have arrived.
The Byway’s newest gateway is Erie Boulevard as travelers enter downtown Schenectady from I-890. This newly reconstructed entrance to the downtown area has a calming effect on the traveler and exudes the sense and atmosphere that you have arrived at a special place: The City of Innovation and the Mohawk Towpath Byway.
Driving into Niskayuna from Saratoga County. What do you see? First of all you may be waiting in a traffic on the bridge with water on either side. Most likely there is something going on in the Mohawk River that you don’t see at other gateways. As the light changes you might notice one of the historic stone arches where the historic traveller might have passed either over or through. Going the other way on Route 146 you are entering a community that has changed only a little in the last hundred years. Granted you no longer navigate around the McClane Hotel, but the the historic community of Rexford on your left and the old canal store, now the Schenectady Yacht Club, on the right is very much like it was a century and a half ago.
When Rexford’s Stewart’s Shop was constructed a decade ago someone had a bright idea to include a gateway sign the same as all the other gateways to Town that read, “Welcome to Clifton Park, a nice place to live work and play.” Fortunately, that sign didn’t last to long. The community wanted something unique leading to the tactful sign that’s there today. There may be a new store there but the character of the gateway is maintained.
As reconstruction of the Rexford Bridge progresses this spring watch how this gateway evolves.
Happy Holidays to the Volunteers that make the Mohawk Towpath Byway what it is today and to all of those who live, work and play within the Byway corridor. We had a very productive and exciting 2015 as we celebrated our tenth year as one of America’s Byways®.
May we all have a prosperous, exciting and rewarding New Year! Join in our festivities starting with a Family Moonlight Ski on the evening of January 21, 2016.