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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.

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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.  >>>  https://www.niagarafallsstatepark.com/niagara-falls-state-park    (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.  >>> https://www.niagarafallsstatepark.com/niagara-falls-state-park/history

And, … here is a link to waymarking info about the park.  >>> http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM1Q2H_Niagara_Reservation

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?

 

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Learning about birds, Sunday, May 7

On Sunday, May 7, our hike will be a joint one with Victor Hiking Trails, in Victor, closer to my new home area.  Our Mr. happiness-in-hiking is the able planner and you will shortly see more details about the hike from him.  Basically, 2 hikes will be offered.  We will offer our usual vigorous workout and, the more leisurely choice will be a nature walk in a beautiful bluebird sanctuary.  While I am listed as this group leader, I am fortunate to be joined by one or two gentlemen who have extensive experience and knowledge about local birds.  If you plan to choose this hike, bring a pair of binoculars, if you can.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to learn about birds, this is the best time of the year to do it, for the following reasons:

  1. Migratory birds are returning from their winter sites and can be seen, whether they’re in the process of courting and building nests, or passing through to breeding sites further north.
  2. The cocks have their colorful breeding plumage, to attract the hens, making it easier to see, and identify the gender.  After the breeding season, many cock’s plumage becomes more drab.
  3. The cocks are also singing, to proclaim their breeding territory, and attract hens.  Many bird songs are unique and they can be identified by their song, even if they can’t be seen.  With the leaves being back on the trees, seeing them can be more difficult.
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Get Ready to Explore the Empire State Trail

If you attended the Springwater Trails Annual Meeting in March, you heard all about the plans to complete the Empire State Trail. On April 14, I received an update from the NYS Office of Parks.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to create the 750-mile Empire State Trail was approved in the 2017-18 State Budget. The state will develop 350 miles of new trail to complete the Erie Canalway and the Hudson River Valley Greenway trails to create the largest state multi-use trail in the nation. The statewide pathway for hiking and biking will help visitors and tourists explore scenic vistas and charming, historic communities. The Empire State Trail would span from the New York Harbor up through the Adirondack Mountains to the Canadian border – and from the shores of Lake Erie along the historic Erie Canal to the heart of the Capital Region.

 Read more

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