Richmond Aqueduct

Richmond Aqueduct
Second Largest Aqueduct Built on the Enlarged Erie Canal (1856-1917)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Have A Dream –A New Vision for Building a Vibrant Community

I last posted here with regard to the adventures of a 2009 Archaeological Dig held in Montezuma, NY, along the original Erie Canal that opened here in 1820. We've completed the dig and are awaiting the results of the report. This blog has now evolved into the next generation with a new face, a new name, and great adventure that will feature the plans and development for a public park.

I’ve long held a dream and vision that Montezuma’s historic canal sites and rich natural resources that once made this a booming canal town could help us once again become a strong and vibrant community.

Our historic and natural resources offer us such a rich opportunity to transform 140 acres of town parkland along Seneca River shore front into a public space that connects to the hamlet of Montezuma. The park would be part of the other regionally significant areas that celebrates our history and natural resources, provide green space for the growth of our town, and open the area to the Seneca River for recreation. 

A Heritage Park will provide a balanced mix of public access including:

  • Creating pedestrian and bicycle trails from the Hamlet along Routes 90 and 31 to the Seneca River
  • Provide a safe and enjoyable park experience for residents, and tourists;
  • Blend smoothly with a vibrant mix of residential, restaurant, historic canal sites;
  • Complement and link to adjacent natural resources, canal heritage sites, trails, parks and other tourist attractions in the Finger Lakes;
  • Take advantage of the natural scenic view from the Seneca River waterfront;
  • Protect and enhance the natural environment;
  • Protect, preserve and enhance the town’s historic sites

To this end, the Heritage Park Design Committee formed in 2010, supports the community planning and development of the Montezuma Heritage Park and proposes to:

  • Provide for quality public space developed on 140 acres of Town owned property along the Seneca River;
  • Develop safe and accessible pedestrian trails;
  • Provide access to the site from Route 90, Route 31 and the Seneca River
  • Provide adequate parking areas from Route 90 and Route 31
  • Provide adequate dockage access from the waterfront
  • Seek sound funding structures to support the town for the park’s development and maintenance.

Over 185 years ago Dr. Peter Clarke and Comfort Tyler, the first settlers to the area, envisioned Montezuma being part of Governor Dewitt Clinton's dream -- opening the western country to settlers and offering cheap and safe ways of carrying produce to market. They dreamed of a hamlet that would grow and flourish into a vital, prosperous community.  The original canal, that seems so small to us now, only four feet deep and 40 feet wide, became the Grand Canal of our forefathers.  It became responsible for the unprecedented development and prosperity that came not only to New York State, but also to the whole nation in the first half of the nineteenth century and a model for canal-building throughout the world! Clinton’s dream was viewed by many, as imaginings of a most visionary dreamer, but the dream came true, and we have reason to feel pride in what the canals have done for our town, state and nation. 

The writer of the “New York Memorial,” the chief instrument to mold public sentiment for the early canal, was gifted with prophecy when he said, “It remains for a free state to create a new era in history, and to erect a work more stupendous, more magnificent and more beneficial, than heretofore has been achieved by the human race.”

In 1903, the people of the State decided once again to enlarge the canal system in construction of what has been generally termed the “Barge Canal.” This was a turning point for Montezuma as the Erie and Cayuga-Seneca canals were abandoned, so was much of the town’s economic base. Today, the name “Barge Canal” is no longer an accurate description of the marine activity on New York’s canals, now known as the “New York State Canal System.”  Trains and trucks have taken over the transport of cargo that once moved on barges along the canals, but the canals remain a viable waterway for navigation.

While the barges have declined, this network of inland waterways is fast becoming a popular tourism destination each year that can be tapped into for pleasure from the canal waterfront, as well as visitors by land, who follow the historic trade route that made New York the “Empire State.” Montezuma can become a vital part of the canal corridor once again with our important historic sites that uniquely span the entire NYS Canal era. My dream is for the town to  create a new era in history that can revitalize Montezuma into a vibrant, rebirthed community, a place we are proud to offer enjoyment for generations to come and to foster the preservation of our historic legacy.  

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