Rexford – “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m here from the government and I’m here to help,” said Assemblyman James Tedisco, evoking the words of former President Ronald Reagan. “Sometimes the government actually does help,” said Tedisco on a sunny Monday afternoon before unveiling a new kiosk at lock seven on the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway.
Local politicians, historians and Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway gathered at the foot of Sugar Hill Road in Rexford for the unveiling as the sun beamed down upon the Mohawk in the distance.
Another kiosk will be located at the Crescent Dam on Cohoes Crescent Road, a location once used by the military to cross the Mohawk River. The Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway runs 26 miles between Schenectady and Waterford/Cohoes.
“I’d like to put a marathon together, but then we’d have to compete with the Mohawk Hudson,” laughed Eric Hamilton, Executive Director of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition.
Clifton Park Town Supervisor, Phil Barrett, emphasized how important it is to “highlight where historical sites intersect with the area’s natural beauty.”
The kiosks were funded by a Federal Highway Administration Byway Grant through the New York State Department of Transportation Byway Program. All in all, the kiosk by lock seven cost about $8,000. “We have another $8,000 in volunteer time put into the project. We had volunteers collecting historical information and working on the bidding process,” according to Hamilton. “All along the way the New York Power Authority has been very supportive,” added Hamilton.
Creatacor, a Clifton Park-based businesses that offers custom-designed displays and exhibits, designed the kiosk. “We’ve been working on it for over a year,” said account manager Amy Bonville. “This was a really fun, cool project. We loved it,” she added.
The kiosks are able to link to visitors’ smartphones so they can listen to an audio description of the location’s historical significance. According to Hamilton, the Schenectady Museum of Science and Innovation’s use of phone-tours inspired the inclusion of a phone-tour at the lock seven kiosk.
The kiosks will be open to the public year-round, free of charge.
Hamilton says the town of Clifton Park will see a ten to one return from the kiosk. “All you can do is get someone excited enough to bring their spouse back when they’re in town for a business meeting.”
It’s been a long-term goal of Hamilton’s to spruce up the towpath. “Larry Syzdek and I were involved in an early advocacy committee fifteen years ago,” says Hamilton. “What drew me in was not scads of tourists coming in, but the idea of developing a recreational area.” Hamilton laments that “very few people know the opportunities” available in their own backyards. Red tail hawks were spotted near the lock on Monday, according to Hamilton. “You don’t have to go to the Adirondacks to see something special”, he says.
According to a press release, the shale bedrock around the lock seven overlook on Sugar Hill Road made construction extremely difficult for canal workers. At 32 ½ feet deep, lock seven is the deepest rock-cut anywhere on the entire Erie Canal, according to the kiosk.
While the original canal was replaced when the river became navigable, the current canal was constructed between 1907 and 1914. Lock seven, a direct current lock, is located on the south side of the Vischer Ferry Dam. Today the lock seven site is considered the “western gateway” to the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.
The Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway will be holding their annual meeting at Groom’s Tavern at 7pm Tuesday, Dec 8. There will be dessert, refreshments, a silent auction and annual elections. According to Hamilton, Stewart’s will be providing ice cream and the public is welcome.