Canal history article (Westside News, June 3, 2002)

Friends of Genesee Valley Greenway (FOGVG) some years back (June 15, 2002) sponsored two guided interpretive hikes of eastern Letchworth State Park, including some info about the geology of the area and info about Genesee Valley Canal of long ago.  A June 3, 2002 article about these hikes ran in the Westside News (a newspaper of Spencerport and perhaps some other outlying western suburbs of Rochester).  The article contents are here:

Canal history focus of two Greenway Walks

Two of the area’s most well known and respected canal historians will both be leading walks on the Genesee Valley Greenway within Letchworth State Park on the afternoon of Saturday, June 15. Each event will focus on a separate aspect of the history of the Genesee Valley Canal which played a major role in the development of western New York and transported passengers, agricultural products, gypsum, lumber, and manufactured goods from 1840 to 1878 between the Erie Canal in Rochester and the Allegany River near Olean.

At 2 p.m., Dave Kipp, Genesee Valley Canal historian, and author of Locking the Heights: The Rise and Demise of the Genesee Valley Canal, will share his extensive knowledge of the canal’s history during a walk along the canal towpath next to stone canal locks #54 to 60. The locks are located within the one-mile section of Genesee Valley Greenway between Oakland and Short Tract Roads in the Town of Portage and are visible from Route 436 between Nunda and Portageville . This series of seven locks is the best preserved of 17 locks built to negotiate the change in elevation between the Keshequa Creek Valley in Nunda and the glacial moraine in Portage. This walk will begin at the Greenway’s Oakland Road parking area, located at the intersection of Oakland Road and Route 436, 1.5 miles west of Nunda .

At 3:30 p.m., Tom Grasso , Genesee Valley Canal historian and lecturer and president of the Canal Society of New York State, will lead a two-mile walk along the former canal towpath (now Genesee Valley Greenway ) from the Letchworth State Park Parade Grounds to the famous Slide Area and Portage Hill Tunnel. Grasso , a geologist, will explain how the land forms and geology of the area challenged and directed the efforts of canal builders. Grasso will describe how the Slide Area was formed and why it created never-ending maintenance expenditures for canal and railroad operators. Grasso will also discuss the tunnels envisioned and started by the canal builders, the pinning of the canal to the top of the gorge walls, and the means chosen to cross an ancient river bed. The walk will begin at the Letchworth State Park Parade Grounds parking lot on the east side of the park.

After the walks, the Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway will host a silent auction, chicken barbecue and barn dance at Ravenwood Farms, located one-half mile north of Route 436 at 9174 Short Tract Road in the Town of Portage. Short Tract Road is 2.5 miles west of Nunda . 

An historic 1919 report of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, transmitted to the NYS Legislature in April 1920.

Each year the Society published an annual report reviewing activities in each of the parks and historical sites they oversaw.  One such report was the 25th annual report, which contains a interesting look at the young Letchworth State Park.  The Society operated Letchworth State Park from the time of William Prior Letchworth’s death, (December 1, 1910) until 1930.  Letchworth had gifted the park in 1907 to NYS, subject only to his life use and tenancy.

Today’s Tidbit of history – the first state park

Today’s Tidbit of history, in NYS.   – – – Can you name the first established state park in NYS & the USA?

Need some time to think about it?

Today’s Tidbit of history, July 15th 1885, the Niagara Reservation (think immediately adjacent Niagara Falls) was dedicated, and this area would become the first state park in not only NYS but also in the entire USA.  Today this park goes by the name of: Niagara Falls State Park.

Now you know just which was the first park in NYS, a park that started it all. That oldest park is of course now but one park in the NYS Parks System … a system of many great and unique places we all can appreciate for recreation and exploration.

Here’s one link to a segment of info about the Niagara Falls State Park area.  >>>    (The info is in italics below.  Note the struggles to reclaim the natural beauty of the area -vs- industrialists, as included in the below prose.)

Today, the park’s signature attraction, the majestic Niagara Falls, is the dramatic apex of the free-flowing waters of four of the Great Lakes into the Niagara River Gorge. But that wasn’t always the case. During the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th Century, the natural beauty of Niagara Falls began to suffer as earnest industrialists built mills and factories along the river to harness its power. By the late 1860s, a small band of early environmentalists, including landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who were concerned over the river’s waning flow, founded the Free Niagara movement. The movement believed that the natural beauty of the land surrounding the Falls should be protected from commercial interests and exploitation, and remain free to the public. Members urged New York State to reclaim the Falls and the surrounding area.

After more than 15 years of pressure, the Free Niagara crusaders won their battle. The Niagara Appropriations Bill was signed into law in 1885, creating the Niagara Reservation and signifying possibly the most important event in Niagara Falls’ history. New York State Assemblyman Thomas Vincent Welch was a prominent figure in getting the bill signed and later went on to serve as the first superintendent of America’s oldest state park. 

Frederick Law Olmsted, perhaps best known for designing New York City’s Central Park, believed that parks should be places of natural beauty, where “the masses could be renewed.” This philosophy was applied throughout Olmsted’s landscape design for Niagara Falls State Park, with an entire network of footpaths through wooded areas and along the banks of the Niagara River. 

Today, the oldest American State Park retains Olmsted’s vision by staying committed to maintaining native vegetation, preserving its unparalleled vistas and providing public access. Visitors from around the world are entranced by the thundering wonder of Niagara Falls, a grand tribute to the men and women who fought to preserve it for all.

Here’s another link to a segment of info about the Niagara Falls State Park area.  >>>

And, … here is a link to waymarking info about the park.  >>>

Enjoyment of NYS parks comes in many forms.  You can visit the NYS Parks system website for more info about NYS parks, facilities, programs, etc.  Please help keep our parks clean and pristine.  And remember, “I Love My Park Day”, a NYS initiative for volunteers to help pitch-in at NYS parks in an organized effort is annually scheduled in early May.

Here’s a teaser.  Do you know which NYS park is the smallest?


Bluebird hike at MFBBH – hike report

So, you hiked MFBBH this past Sunday (and looked for Bluebirds, and more), … or maybe you didn’t.

Well, three years ago now when impetus by this ST Hike Planner was first identified to plan a Bluebird hike at MFBBH and Monkey Run Trails in Victor, there was no foresight that Spring 2017 would be the season that such would come to fruition.  Admittedly, the timing of GVC’s “All About Bluebirds” presentation scheduled for March 2017 at the Riviera Theater in Geneseo, and opportunity to piggyback on this presentation by syncing a ST hike two months later (in May), set the stage in January/February 2017 to plan a May 2017 Bluebird hike for ST hikers at MFBBH in Victor, NY.

Obviously, too, back three years ago or even three months ago, there was no foresight of what weather conditions would be come hike day, Sunday, May 7th 2017.  Come hike weekend during a Saturday preview hike, with the wetter than average March and April as wells as early May in 2017, we found the trail conditions at MFBBH & Monkey Run Trails to be, well, “very wet” in two words.  And so, an update of such was posted to the Hike Announcement.

Anatomy, as developed, of this targeted hike opportunity for ST hikers:  As planning progressed on this hike, it became identifiable as a special hike that Victor Hiking Trails (VHT) also would benefit in offering to VHT hikers, and so a joint ST/VHT hike effort came into being.  With both of the Co-Hike Planners being both ST & VHT hikers this seemed to naturally pair the two hiking groups (and of course geography had a major play as well, being that the hike locale is in Victor).  And with one added ST Hike Leader (Gene) behind the scenes for this Bluebird hike, who also has ST & VHT hiking experiences and birding experience, a hike in completion was hatched.  Add to this an additional birding expert, Richard Ashworth, for this hike, and a superb facility in Butler Cottage situated within MFBBH park for a joint ST/VHT potluck after-hike social and it seemed there was a unique formula for success of this planned hike.

Fortunate that while terra conditions were soggy for this hike, no rain fell on this parade of approximately two dozen hikers, and temps were in the 40s with cloudy skies prevailing (just as predicted in the weather forecast as Sunday approached).

The fast-paced group led by Dave traversed Monkey Run Trails, requiring entrance from Valentown Road approach due to White Brook having overflowed its bank and covering another trail entrance.  Most trails were in very good condition and some muddy sections near the creek. The group covered most MR trails in a little over an hour and then did an abbreviated MFBBH hike  The slower and shorter “Nature Walk” group led by Richard, a long time member and officer in the Rochester Birding Association and also Burroughs Audubon Nature Club in Fishers, observed and identified many birds, including Bluebirds of both genders, despite the time of day and cool damp weather.  Other sighted birds: Blue Jay, Mourning Dove, House Sparrow, Canada Goose, Mallard Duck, Redwing Blackbird, Turkey Vulture, Yellow Warbler, Goldfinch, Catbird Robin Swallow.  Some flora observed: Wildflowers – Geranium, Violets, Bloodroot, Trout Lily, Mayapple.

It was noticed that MFBBH contains many Ash trees, and noted that if these succumb to the Emerald Ash Borer their absence will be quite noticeable.

Butler Cottage at MFBBH held the after-hike social potluck dinner, were many tasty dishes were shared among hikers.

So, quite a successful joint ST/VHT event.

Reflecting on the three year impetus for this hike, … overall, lesson learned perhaps, is that a hike opportunity identified can be like wine.  Some identified come to fruition only years in the waiting, and no telling for sure how any will take final form.




The Genesee Valley Greenway 2017 Passport Series

The Genesee Valley Greenway (GVG) Passport Hike Series for 2017 will be held on the second Saturday morning each month April through October.
The GVG is a linear state park which approximately follows the alignment of the former Genesee Valley Canal. Following closure of the canal the traverse (mostly the towpath of the canal) would subsequently become the bed of the Genesee Valley Canal Railroad which eventually became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad system. In the years after the abandonment of nearly all that railroad alignment there became impetus to utilize the alignment as a multi-use trail. Through cooperative efforts among a number of groups/organizations/and individuals that impetus became reality, and eventually the GVG became a state park.


Saturday, April 8th, 2017 – Hike #1. Genesee Valley Park to Scottsville Rd (Rt. 383), City of Rochester, Chili, Monroe County, 2.5 miles. Easy, gentle rolling trail with paved surface.

Saturday, May 13th, 2017 – Hike #2. Brook Rd to Black Creek, Chili, Monroe County, 3.7 miles. Easy, flat trail with cinder surface. Includes double-arched Genesee Valley Canal culvert (aka aqueduct).

Saturday, June 10th, 2017 – Hike #3. Brook Rd to Morgan Rd, Chili, Monroe County, 4.3 miles. Easy, flat trail with cinder surfacing. Includes Genesee Valley Canal Lock #2.

Saturday, July 8th, 2017 – Hike #4. Quaker Rd (Rt 251) to Lehigh Valley Trail, Wheatland, Monroe County, 3.1 miles. Easy, flat trail with a mixed surface. Includes bridge and abutments for Lehigh Valley Black Diamond Railroad trestle.

Saturday, August 12th, 2017 – Hike #5. Fowlerville Rd (northward) to Lock #5, York, Livingston County, 2.7 miles. Easy, flat trail with a mixed surface. Includes stone remaining from Genesee Valley Canal Lock #5.  (Includes unique short section of trail surface composed of very thick layer of stone dust topper, laid early ~ 2016, … unique in that is cushioning/easy on a hiker’s joints.)

Saturday, September 9th, 2017 – Hike #6. York Landing (northward) to Fowlerville Rd, York, Livingston County, 3.1 miles. Easy, flat trail with a mixed surface. Includes former canal turning basins and views of the Genesee River.

Saturday, October 14th, 2017 – Hike #7. Cuylerville to Piffard, Leicester and York, Livingston County, 3.5 miles. Includes canal-era tavern and large ponds popular with birders.