Retreat!

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.

Towpath Trail

TowpathHalfmoon

– photo by Halfmoon crew

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.

Protect Our Communities’ Gateways

DSCN0093Gateways 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.DSCN0095

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.

[Also see the blog entry Gateway Signs posted sometime after the Scenic Conservation Action Plan was adopted.]

Greetings

Greetings

Holiday GreetingsHappy 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.

Scenic Conservation

As part of the stewardship of the corridor of our Mohawk Towpath Byway we need to continually update the Scenic Conservation Action Plan that we adopted several years ago. This is a living document that guides our vision of what we want the Byway to look like for future generations.  As we see changes happening along the corridor we need to gain a broad public understanding of what we want our communities, our Byway to look like as we hand stewardship off to the next generation.

We are building on accomplishment by our member municipalities including riverfront studies, open space studies, rezoning, refining Master Plans, new proposed projects, and – in some cases – all of the above.  Two  projects currently proposed will have a profound impact on the Byway: the proposed redevelopment of the historic American Locomotive manufacturing (ALCO) site in Schenectady and the proposed expansion of the Colonie Landfill.

Less than a century ago Schenectady was known as the city that lit and moved the world with General Electric at one end of the city and ALCO at the other.  Steam locomotives of all sizes and shapes came from Schenectady and as Diesel electric locomotives slowly replaced steam, ALCO lead the way.

ALCO

American Locomotive Company in the heyday of steam.

Currently the historic site is being repurposed by the Galesi Group as they transform this area to a tourist destination. The process started with a “brownfield” project to remove historic contamination from over a century of heavy manufacturing.  MohawkHarborALCO

A harbor was constructed off the Mohawk River and Erie Canal.  A bike and pedestrian path is funded, a Marriott Hotel is under construction, a major gambling casino is proposed along with residential, commercial and retail space.

Plans are to have David Buicko, one of the principals of the Galesi Group, as a guest speaker at the next meeting of the Mohawk Towpath Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition.  Be there January 21 in Clifton Park.

Canal and towpath between Cohoes and Crescent

The Erie Canal just west of the “widewaters” in the Town of Colonie. The towpath in the foreground became the Cohoes Crescent Road in the 1920s.

Another proposal is to expand the Colonie Landfill footprint further north with operations adjacent to the Cohoes Crescent Road segment of the Byway. Historic photographs show this area in a pastural setting, not that much different than one would see with a well maintained landfill cap.ColonieLanfillProposal

The proposal would extend the life of the landfill another 20 years and create a mountain up to an elevation of over 500 feet dominating the Cohoes Crescent Road (at elevation of about 190 feet) with a landscape compared to that of local ski slopes. Public meetings on the proposal will be required before New York State finalizes a landfill permit.

An important part of either of these projects is to gain community input.

Your opinions and perspectives are important to the Mohawk Towpath Byway, to those who are making decisions about changes within our communities, and to those who will be inheriting our stewardship.  Make sure your voice is heard.

New Kiosks

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.

OldMilitaryCrossing

Old Military Crossing from the Cohoes Crescent Road N Y Power Authority Site.

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.

Unveiling and ribbon cutting at the Lock 7 Dam Overlook with Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, Eric Hamilton, Chamber CEO Peter Gardenias, Larry Sydek, and John Scherer. - photo provided by Phil Barrett.

Unveiling and ribbon cutting at the Lock 7 Dam Overlook with Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, Eric Hamilton, Chamber CEO Peter Bardunias, Larry Sydek, and John Scherer. – photo by Jennifer Viggiani

“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.

 

Duathlon Success

Registration Breather

Sue Lasker, Loueen Whalen, Mary Duclos and Isabel Prescott take a break from registration.

The final figures on the duathlon are in.  It was a successful event: it was a safe event, we had 99 competitors registered of which 84 finished along with three 2 person teams.  We had eight sponsors for a total of $3,100.  In addition the major sponsor Capital Region Landfills underwrote the event tee shirts for $2000.

Command Central

Larry Syzdek, Eric Hamilton, and Norm Schartzer caught together near the communications trailer

I figure we had 115 hours of volunteer hours into this project with an equivalent value of over $3,100!  Through that effort we made many new friends and only teed off a few unhappy motorists (none of them Byway visitors).

Bottom line: the Byway came out ahead by $2,737.

Thank you all of you who helped in so many ways!  If you worked on the project and didn’t pick up your Giffy’s Bar-B-Q chicken dinner… well it got eaten.  If you didn’t get a goody bag including tee shirt I will get one to you on your request.

In addition to CapitalDistrict Landfills our sponsors included Jeff and Kim Hamilton of Kennesaw, GA, the G E Foundation, Brookfield Renewable Power, Mohawk Fine Papers, Stewart’s Shops, Shenendehowa Rotary, Halfmoon Family Dental, Price Chopper/Golub Foundation, The Town of Clifton Park, and Riverview Orchards.

These photos were by Tracy Perry.  There are over 2000 photos of the competitors and volunteers by Kristen Hislop.  Look for her collection on her Google+ page and search on her name.

Next year why don’t you join the fun. It’s a two mile run, 17 mile bike ride through the scenic Byway corridor, and a two mile run to the finish. Not so ambitious? How about volunteering along side one of your neighbors? There will be over three dozen of us out there making it a safe and fun event!