Richmond Aqueduct

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


The last meeting of the year of the Montezuma Heritage Design Committee (HPDC) will be held Thursday, December 29th at 7 PM in the Town Hall. We welcome community residents to attend. 
At this meeting we will be reviewing proposals for conceptual design services to develop the park. This planning project is partially funded through a grant received from the Environmental Protection Fund administered by New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. We also will be setting three main goals for the coming year as we partner with the Rivers, Trails, Conservation Assistance and Parks and Trails, New York Creating Healthy Trails, Healthy Places Program to assist us in putting together an Action Plan.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Park Plans Highlighted

I would like to thank Dorothy Long, Contributing Writer to the Post Standard Neighbors Cayuga County section for today's article highlighting Montezuma's plans for the park.  I enjoyed chatting with Dorothy about the article she did. Also, I enjoyed the walk to the aqueduct with Photographer, Stephen Cannerelli  as I shared with him about the historic sites in the park. I appreciate the article and photos helping us to educate the public about the important natural and historic resources we have here.   Supervisor John Malenick was quoted in the article as saying, "We are a very small community, but we are rich in history."  This is so true, and when we recognize the value of our history as an asset, it helps our community focus on what resources we do have.

I would like to make one correction regarding the grant that was received by the town mentioned in the article. It is an Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) grant administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). The purpose of the grant is to conduct a park design project that will include building understanding and community support, exploring alternatives and preparing the final concept plan. The Town will then use a landscape architect to develop final designs, construction documents. and begin the permit process for this project of the priority components of the park design. The Request for Proposals are due today and the Heritage Park Design Committee will review the proposals, and make a recommendation to the Town Board for final approval at their January town board meeting. 

The article may be read online at:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Gift Arrives in Time For the Holidays!

Creating a healthy environment is important for our community.  One way to do this has recently arrived for the Town of Montezuma wrapped in a bright green package just in time for the holidays.

To help manage residential organic waste that was previously burned and to build community understanding of the serious health and safety hazards of open burning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) with the funding for the New York State Clean Air Grants Program under the Clean Air Act.  Open burning of leaves, branches and other organic materials poses serious health risks and safety hazards that results in  releasing harmful pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and lead.  Also, since open burning of residential waste is the single largest cause of wildfires, it puts the Montezuma Heritage Park and Montezuma National Wildlife that borders it at risk, and it is critical as stewards of this land we protect the habitat of these areas.

The Town of Montezuma received a Clean Air Grant through the DEC to help purchase a chipper. This will allow the Town to provide a service to residents to dispose of organic waste by bringing it to a designated site near the Recycling Center at the Town Highway Department barn. In return residents, will be able to use this recycled product as mulch as it becomes available. Another benefit is it will provide needed mulch along the newly self-guided nature trails now being developed in the Montezuma Heritage Park.

Denny Lapp (left) and Jeff Dawson (right) ready to tackle a huge pile of brush.

Jeffrey Dawson, newly elected Highway Superintendent will be in charge of the operation assisted by highway employee, Denny Lapp.  More information will be published as the needed guidelines for collection are established.

It's a win-win solution  and opportunity for the town -- thanks DEC!

Happy Holidays!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Harvesting Wonderful Partnerships!

At this time of year there's so much to be grateful for in our homes and communities. I would like to thank the many individuals and agencies that helped support the Montezuma Heritage Park project.  First of all I'd like to extend a very warm thanks to the Park Design Committee. This group has remained committed spending hours of their time in multiple ways. Also, thank you to the many residents and businesses that have supported our fundraising efforts. Then, there are so many wonderful agencies that helped support the park project  including Cornell Cooperative Extension, Cayuga Community College, Cayuga County Planning, SUNY-ESF  Center of Community Design Research,  NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work & Play Grant (funded by the NYSDOH), Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, The Pomeroy Foundation, Cayuga Community Foundation, Mural Mania and Forever Wild for Everyone Programs.
Now we can add to our list the assistance awarded from Parks and Trails, New York and again this year, the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program for their support.  PTNY Healthy Trails, Healthy People program will be helping us to enrich the quality of life by connecting to multi-use trails in a natural, cultural and historical park setting.  RTCA shares the benefits of the National Park System to help us further identify and accomplish our goals.

Through collaboratively working with these agencies, we will look forward to the coming year strengthening our vision, building constituencies and local support critical to long term success for the park. Easily accessible, close to home, multi-use trails will enhance opportunities for recreation, health and fitness, education and economic improvement, while focusing on areas of natural beauty and historic significance.

We hope you can join us this weekend for the Zumba-thon to benefit the Mural fund for the park. Many thanks to Kristen Decker and teachers from  Stepping Stone Fitness Center and Roy Wilson and his DJ Service for hosting this event.  Area businesses have been generous, and we have some great raffle donations waiting to be claimed if you're the lucky one! Come Zumba, or just watch and enjoy the music! We appreciate your support! It's being held Sunday, November 27, 2011, at the Town Hall, 8102 Dock Street off Route 90 in Montezuma from 1 PM - 4 PM. 

With partners like this, I'm confident the end result will be a park that enriches our lives with recreation, health, fitness, education and economic improvement!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

HPDC Meeting

The Heritage Park Design Committee is scheduled for tomorrow night (Thursday, November 17th) at 7 PM at the Town Hall. The meeting is open to anyone who would like to attend. It was scheduled early this month because of the holiday next week.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Which Way to the Park?

Much of the focus for  Montezuma Heritage Park Design Committee this past year has been planning for signage so that people can find the park. So many people have said to me, "I've heard of that Richmond Aqueduct, but where is it?" or "Montezuma? Is that where that Wildlife Refuge is?" This year we've made great progress to be able to help people find the park, trails and historic sites within it. Most of the trails are roughly formed, in good shape, and can be used now, but finding them can be challenging.

Which way to Montezuma Heritage Park?
That's all about to change with the help of the Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work, and Play grant program. This organization's objectives  include establishing walking and recreation trails that focus on walking and biking funded by the state health department. Their mission seeks to bring government, the business community and the nonprofit world together to improve transportation, recreation and nutrition options in Cayuga County. The program encourages healthier choices to improve our lifestyles and creates a new context for physical activity by aiming to re-position it in our parks in terms of well-being, fun, stress reduction, and connections to other people and the natural world.

Through a generous grant received from the program, this winter volunteers will be busy building two new kiosks for the park entrances, benches, and designing signage for the park and along the trails.  With the help of Cayuga Community College and Professor Walter Aikman's Geography class and County Planning, we will have well designed maps to put on our new signage to locate the sites and trails of interest within the park.

My thanks to Sabrina Hesford, of the Creating Healthy Places program for helping us obtain this funding that will  improve our site -- one people will be able to find, and enjoy the many benefits it has to offer. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fall at the Richmond Aqueduct

A beautiful Fall photo of the Richmond Aqueduct taken by Jean Mackay, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, on her visit to Montezuma last week.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I enjoyed reading Mike Riley's Citizen column today urging support of local historic societies. Many groups are struggling to survive because the public just does not understand their importance. Like Mike says, we are far from a group that just sits around and talks about the "good ole days."  I have to say that some of the most rewarding experiences I have had in life have come from working with people that care about their communities. They understand the importance of our history, and spend long dedicated hours volunteering their time to make sure it is preserved.  Often history is seen as having little relevance to what is happening in today's society. But history is made up of people and their experiences that shapes the future. So, it behooves us to learn from it to make informed choices for future generations. 

The Montezuma Historical Society was formed in 2006,  and has accomplished a lot of in our first five years to make sure our town's history is preserved for future generations.  Contrary to what may be assumed, the Society does not receive any state, local government taxpayer support or outside help. We are self-sustaining through membership, donations, and fundraising activities.  That means baking and selling a lot of pies & cookies, selling raffle tickets, continually seeking new members, and asking for renewals in order to continue our work. This is all in addition to the programs we plan and hold throughout the year!

Please support two upcoming fundraisers for our operating expenses and closing the gap for funding a historic mural in Montezuma:


Join the Party -- Help Close the Gap & Ditch the Workout!



Join the millions of people that have decided having fun and working out are
not mutually exclusive.  No experience, age limit or fitness level
needed....just a desire to have fun, get some exercise 
and help us bring a mural to Montezuma!

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Today's warm sunshine was quite a contrast to last weekend when twenty-four Cayuga Community College students, professors and Montezuma volunteers walked on several trails in the rain to GPS trail locations and sites in the park.  It didn't dampen any one's enthusiasm, and we appreciate everyone hanging in there to get the job done! We divided students and volunteers into three groups. I went with the group on the Reservoir and Paper Mill Trail. We started at Chapman Road and walked south entering the trail in the woods that borders National Wildlife Refuge property. Climbing to the top of the drumlin students equipped with high powered GPS units to record the coordinates through the dense woods marked the site of the reservoir that fed water to what was once a papermill plant. 

We came back down the hill and proceeded down the berm side of the Enlarged Erie to to the ruins of the  Montezuma Fibre Company (1906-1916).The  20,000 acres of Montezuma Swamp produced a natural resource that was harvested to make a heavy-weight paper. Flag, better known as cattails was a raw material harvested and being shipped on the Canal to distance cities for making chair seats and caulking barrels.  The "Montezuma Wheat" as it was called provided raw pulp to make the paper. The price of an acre of swamp land went from seven to sixty dollars. The business failed in 1916 and what remains today are the concrete basement walls and floors.

After leaving the papermill site we returned to the berm side of the canal and walked west toward the Seneca River. Here we came out on the South side of the Richmond Aqueduct, which is a view visitors don't usually get to see. Climbing the banks near the aqueduct, students got a a view of this magnificent structure from the top of it. From here we walked back to the parking lot to join the others waiting to board the bus back to Auburn.

Today a group of eleven local volunteers  came out to work on the trails. Armed with chain saws and loppers we headed into the park again to do some clearing of trees and shrubs that were obstructing views and walking trails. Again, we divided up into three groups to accomplish the goals we decided to first work on. John Malenick, Dan Randolph and John Potter tackled the twisted brush and trees that was hiding the full view of the crossover abutment at the High Street Byron Lapp Memorial Trailhead.

Tom Fitzsimmons and Stan Longyear headed down to the aqueduct to where a tree had fallen against the wall of the aqueduct obstructing the view from the Seneca River bank. From there they went on a trail entering near Lock 62 and cut up several large branches blocking the trail.
Mike and Mary Riley, Paul and Bunny Baker, Mellony Carner and myself headed back to the Reservoir trail were we spotted a few tree and branches needing removal. Paul and Mike tackled the bigger jobs, while us girls cut smaller brush along the way. Having finished what we set out to do, we headed to the Town Hall where we had homemade chili and johnny cake made by Bunny Baker. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The Heritage Park Design Committee (HPDC) has scheduled two upcoming fall trail workdays. On Saturday, October 1, we are very pleased to partner with Cayuga Community College and Professors Walter Aikman and Ronald Grube to work with US Geography students and volunteers to do field work gathering data for beginning a mapping project for the park. 

This data will then be used to begin creating maps for kiosk signs, brochures, and the website. We also would like to create a map showing the relationship of the park to the great marsh area to give people an understanding where Montezuma is in relation to the Montezuma Wildlife marshes. A visioning map could also be created that would include insets building layers featuring trails, soils, historic sites, viewsheds, topography, flood plains, and natural areas. We plan to pair up in three teams with students and volunteers familiar with the trail areas to gather the data.  

On Saturday October 8th we have another day scheduled to begin work on trails. Volunteers are needed to help out. This would be a great opportunity for students or youth groups to complete their community service credit  and a chance to learn about local canal history. We will meet at 9:30 AM at the trailhead near the firehouse off Route 90 in Montezuma, and divide up into groups to begin work. Email me at if you would like to help us out. 

Volunteers are the life blood for a project like this. But it's not only about's about the  rewards of making a difference in our community, enjoying the experience of the great outdoors and our wonderful local natural and historic resources we can easily take for granted.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Erie Canal Heritage Corridor Point of Interest Sign Arrives Today!

ECNHC Point of Interest Sign
In 2010, the Town of Montezuma was selected as a Point of Interest by the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor along with other canal-related museums and cultural heritage sites as part of the  Erie Canalway Partner Program. The program is intended to advance the goals of the Erie Canalway Preservation and Management Plan by facilitating coordinated and sustained collaboration between the commission and staff and canal-related sites. 

As a part of the program the twenty-five partner and point of interest sites were offered a high quality semi-custom exhibit panel to display. The new panel will be installed on one of the new kiosks designed for the park. It will showcase the park as one of the valuable "gems on the necklace" along the canal system, so that visitors can explore our site and become motivated to visit others along the Corridor. 

The panel, 24" x 36", arrived today, and is it ever a beauty.  I'm so thrilled to see the Richmond Aqueduct portrayed on this panel for the significance it held in Erie Canal history. It is an engineering marvel, the second largest built in 1849. Building this Aqueduct proved extremely difficult as the site was bottomless muck. Wooden pilings were driven over 90 feet deep and no rock was found. Eventually, a "mattress" built of logs was sunk to the bottom of the Seneca River and the stone construction was built on top of this base. The Aqueduct remained in use until 1917, when all but nine arches were dismantled on the east side and three on the west side of the river. The aqueduct was named after Van R. Richmond, the engineer who directed its construction. Today eight arches remain located within the Montezuma Heritage Park.

The US Congress designed the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor in 2000 in recognition of the nationally-significant history, scenery, culture, and natural resources of the NYS Canal System and communities along its shores. The National Heritage Corridor includes the present day canal system and its historic alignments. It encompasses 234 municipalities; 4,834 square miles; home to 2.7 million people. It includes over 800 listings on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Montezuma's site listed as the Seneca River Canal Historic District.

The Corridor ties together significant canal sites and communities within the consistent framework that highlights the uniqueness and diversity of individual sites. It brings federal  recognition and resources that serves as a bridge between for local initiatives. 

Thank you Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor -- we're proud to be a Point of Interest and have this beautiful sign!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Heritage Park Design Committee Meeting

Heritage Park Design Committee Meeting - Thursday, Sept. 22 @ 7pm, Montezuma Town Hall. Walter Aikman, CCC, will be there to discuss plans for the Oct 1st Student GPS Trail Project and Barry LaVoy on ATV use in the park. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Local Erie Canal History Brought to Life

First Methodist Episcopal Church of Mentz
I had the pleasure of providing a local author with information for her latest fictional book drawn on the essence of early pioneer families' lives who settled in Mentz and Montezuma at the same time the Erie Canal was being built.  Margaret Rose begins all her books with the following: "The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction must be realistic..." She has authored several books to capture the mood and spirit of the area with her "realistic" stories that make local history come alive. Thee Little Country Church -- The Mentz Church is indeed no exception.  This one-room humble church was built on a strong foundation by the local farmers who took pride in their craftsmanship, and those who have followed to preserve it. It is now owned by the Town of Montezuma and is the home of the Montezuma Historical Society.

She tells the story the of the church enriched with the roots where it all began. The church was built in the countryside wilderness by a small congregation that immigrated here mostly from Ireland for the American dream to find a better life and religious freedom.  It begins as settlers bury one of their young in the cemetery in 1813 on land they cleared at what became known as Mentz Corners. Here they later built their church that opened the same year the Erie Canal was completed in 1825. It tells tales of life imagined along a canal town and the excitement and changes it brought to the area. It shares what could have been the joys and sorrows of the families who first gathered for their Methodist camp meetings in the barn of John Gilmore not far from the canal.  As time goes on Margaret Rose brings in Lester Ohara who was baptized in the church and later became its caretaker once it closed.

Although much of the church history was lost, it has been pieced back together by an ancestor of the early settlers who left no (grave) stone unturned in searching his family's roots. Gary Bell came from Michigan to trace and research his family heritage and has written his family story, "How We Came to Be Here, The Bell Family in America" which Margaret Rose used as research for her book.

The book, Thee Little Country Church, may be purchased through the Montezuma Historical Society. Cost is $12 with additional $3 for mailing. Email to order it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Building community spirit is something I've been exploring for sometime with an attitude of restless discontent. It seemed to me it was a missing element in growth for our town.  According to Wikipedia, community spirit is a phrase used to describe local people working together for a mutually positive and sometimes pleasurable result. Community spirit is associated with voluntary work, favours and gestures of good will by residents and local businesses.

I perceived our community somewhat lacking this spirit of working together that concerned me.  Recently, I began to pay more attention to where I could spot it. Then I heard at our community picnic, Marian Ellinwood talk about the kind, supportive neighbors in our town who have done everything from mowing grass, plowing snow, and to making meals as months of hospitalization for her son, Ricky has now turned into years. In this small neighborhood of Willow Grove outside of the village,  one of our town board members, Tom Fitzsimmons, took on a project to create a walking track. Now folks are enjoying a safe, enjoyable place close by to walk off the road. Then there is Barry LaVoy, founder of the ATV club, who for years has encouraged ATV'ers to respect our historic resources. 

Mural in Lyons, NY at the G. Dobbins Memorial Park
So, I began to see community spirit wasn't really missing. It was my field of vision that needed to be broadened. It's like when you get a red car, you start seeing red cars everywhere. When I looked to see a bit farther to our neighbors west of here in the town of Lyons, I found a great example of how community spirit is being built. Mural Mania began several years ago in Lyons as a result of  cleaning up an area along the canal and trolley abutment. As a result of this, an idea to create a historic mural grew out of their community spirit that has spread across the Erie Canal region from Macedon to Syracuse.  Dawn Jordan, a local muralist, refers to this as a "new Renaissance of art" in the region by using the history of the Erie Canal to create a visual history book.

Now, Mark DeCracker, with Trail Works Inc. who volunteers to work with communities to organize community mural projects, has started another innovative idea to build community spirit. It's called, "Forever Wild For Everyone." With the intent of "opening the doors of nature to everyone," it promotes development and/or designates nature trails without barriers for everyone to enjoy.

Our park design committee has been discussing and making plans to incorporate both of these kinds of projects into the Montezuma Heritage Park.  Mark DeCracker recently met with the HPDC (Heritage Park Design Committee) to show how Lyons is building a new "Forever Wild For Everyone" trail and encouraging community spirit by working together to accomplish this goal. The news is full of negative events that can pull us down and create a sense of insecurity. When a community's spirit is alive, it makes you feel like people care, and creates more of a sense of hope for our future.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Richmond Aqueduct site on the Canal Splash Tour 
A beautiful warm August day helped bring out twenty visitors for the Erie Canal Splash Historic Tour Walk in Montezuma on August 13th. Mike Riley led another interesting tour along the Byron Lapp Memorial Towpath Trail explaining the historic sites and how Montezuma played an important role in New York's canal history.
 (Photo compliments of Ed Laraway)

Marian Ellinwood, Volunteer of the Year shares a special moment with her family
Following the tour a Community Picnic was held at Memorial Park to honor Marian Ellinwood as Volunteer of the Year. She was recognized for over 35 years of dedicated service to the Town of Montezuma.  Anyone who has lived here and voted I'm sure can always remember Marian's smiling face greeting us on Election Day.  A special surprise for the day was Marian and Don's son, Ricky was able to be at the recognition. He was transported from Newark Hospital to proudly see his mother receive the award. Marian made special note in receiving the award to share her sediments for the community she lives in with friends and neighbors who have generously helped in many ways while her and Don have visited Ricky everyday since his hospitalization nearly two years ago.


Located on the west side of Chapman Road near the Byron Lapp Memorial Towpath Trail that leads to the Richmond Aqueduct on the Seneca River
Dan Randolph and Stan Longyear installed two new historic markers received by the Montezuma Historical Society for the Town of Montezuma Heritage Park area today.  The markers were made possible through a grant awarded to the Society from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation. The William G. Pomeroy Foundation launched its Historic Roadside Marker program in 2006. This year it expanded its program from Onondaga County to Cayuga, Cortland, Madison Oswego and Onondaga Counties. The Foundation's focus for this program is to help preserve history with a particular interest in organizations supported in large part by volunteers.

Catskill Castings of Bloomville, NY, did an excellent job of making the markers.

The markers help to identify two very important historic sites in Montezuma, and we're thankful to the William G. Pomeroy Foundation for making this possible.

Located off Rt 90 on High Street near the Firehouse and entrance of the Byron Lapp Memorial Towpath Trail.

Friday, August 5, 2011


A series of events are planned in connection with state sponsored Canal Splash weekend in Cayuga County.  The second annual historic canal site driving and walking tour called, Following the Flow: The Tale of Two Erie Canals is sponsored by Old Brutus Historical Society,  Port Byron Lock 52 Historical Society and the Montezuma Historical Society.  Mike Riley, canal historian, will weave in interesting local history and canal stories to make the connections between man and river, ecology and geology, early explorers, settlers, industry and the evolution of New York’s canal system through Cayuga County.
For more information about canal history in Cayuga County go to:


  • 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM -- WEEDSPORT: Ongoing tours will be held at the Old Brutus Historical Museum in Weedsport, 8943 North Seneca Street featuring Erie Canal displays and heritage 
  • 11:00 AM -- WEEDSPORT/JORDAN on Route 31 at the site of the former Lock 51
  • 12:30 PM -- PORT BYRON at  St. John’s Church parking lot, Route 31, West
  • 1:30 PM -- MONTEZUMA walking tour starts at the Heritage Park Byron Lapp Memorial Trailhead near the firehouse off Route 90.


The Town of Montezuma will continue the celebration by honoring a community volunteer  created to recognize an individual who has unselfishly given to the community. This year’s award will be given to town resident, Marian Ellinwood. Marian has given countless hours and many years service to the community including serving as election officer for thirty-five years, and twenty years on the town planning board. She has helped many people preparing income taxes without expecting payment. For the last several years Marian and her husband, Don have devoted their life to daily visiting and caring for their son, Ricky who has been hospitalized in Rochester and Newark hospitals. In spite of the long days at the hospital, Marian faithfully continues to attend monthly planning board meetings.

  •  4:00 PM at the Memorial Park pavilion,  Dock Street. Bring a dish to pass, table service and beverage. Meat and rolls will be provided. 
  •  6:00 PM at the town hall, there will be a 1953 movie version of “A Farmer Takes a Wife,” starring Betty Grable and Dale Robertson. The movie was based on Walter Edmond’s novel "Rome Haul, " and is a tale of love and conflict along the Erie Canal in the mid 19th century. 

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Good News for our Neighbors to the East

    The Canal Society of New York has received some really exciting news.  This is a project some had long ago given up on, but the Society didn't throw in the towel and fifteen years later it looks like it's going to pay off. The New York State Thruway Authority has announced it will partner with the Society to become a major sponsor of the Port Byron Erie Canal Heritage Park Project which now raises the hope the dream will become a reality.

    Founded in Buffalo on October13, 1956, the Canal Society is a not-for-profit educational organization that enables people to visit canal sites in New York State and beyond through regular, organized field trips, to share information and ideas about preserving canal history and traditions, and to advocate for canal renewal and development.
    Erie House
    Peter Van Detto built the Erie House in the early 1890's. After the Erie Canal closed in Port Byron in 1917, the Erie House was abandoned as a tavern and hotel and became a family residence for the Van Detto's. It remained in the family for more than 70 years. His daughters Theresa and Marie served as teachers at the local schools for many years. Peter also ran a similar tavern near the trolley at Stop 69 in Montezuma. 
    The Society's vision is to create  a canal history destination alongside the New York State Thruway in Port Byron.  Within the former canal-side village in Central New York is the well-preserved and very visible Lock 52, a nearby canal prism and dry dock, the Erie House -- which served as a canal-era tavern and boarding house -- a mule barn and a blacksmith shop.

    When completed, the site will provide a new and important cultural visitor facility interpreting New York State canal heritage with particular emphasis on America’s most famous canal, the Erie Canal. Because the site will be accessible from the Thruway, the Heritage Park will educate many people who might not normally come alongside a canal. In addition, the project will serve as a point of orientation and introduction to travelers on the New York State Thruway to canal destinations and attractions in other communities across New York State including it's neighbor to the west.

    Congratulations Canal Society!  And, kuddos to the New York State Thruway Authority for recognizing the potential this project offers for all of us in New York State. 

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    What Does Apple Pie, Church and the Erie Canal Have in Common????

    Historic Mentz Church, Montezuma, NY (Circa 1825)
    I came across an interesting article about a 1968 Canal Society of New York group tour of the historic canal sites in Port Byron and Montezuma. This organization is dedicated to keeping canal heritage alive, and plans are that Port Byron will house its large collection of canal history at the Port Byron Erie House complex once completed. According to the article written by Betty Auten for the Geneva Times," this  is no small job because progress demands that the old must give way to the new."  I guess that's true, but sometimes those  "old ways" are worth carrying on.  The following legend was shared in the Geneva Times  article:
    At 11 a.m., the sightseers left by way of Route 31 for Montezuma. About a quarter of a mile east of the village, the motorcade of 39 cars stopped to see the remnants of the Crane Brook Aqueduct. The prism of Clinton's Ditch curves as it crosses the Thruway and approaches this area; legend has it that this area was called Apple Pie Bend. Whenever the gate-keeper's wife heard a boat approaching in the distance, she would pop an apple pie into the oven so by the time the boat arrived, the men could have a tasty treat.

     This reminds me of a story I heard today about three riders on the "Cycling the Erie Canalway bike ride. These gentlemen seen the sign on Route 31 for the Historic Mentz Church, and decided to take a side trip to check it out.  They stopped and asked Paul Baker how much farther to the church. Paul showed them it was "just up the road a-piece" and asked if they would like to see the inside. So Paul dropped what he was doing in this garden, and gave them the grand tour.  I can only imagine that Paul's wife, Bunny could have been the gate-keeper's wife.  I can see her making apple pie and greeting the travelers along the Canal.  

    Paul & Bunny Baker -- Good Ambassadors for our Community
    So this was the impression our visitors had as they passed through our town, whether by boat or bike, we can still appreciate those that share their time for others passing through town. Would you want to come back -- I sure would!

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Heritage Park Design Committee (HPDC) Meeting

    The monthly HPDC meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 28th, 7pm at the Montezuma Town Hall. Items up for discussion this month are logging proposal update, networking opportunities, signage, kiosks, trail designation, Canal Splash Canal Site Tours and community picnic, RTCA technical assistance, and funding.  Anyone is welcome to join the group or just attend the meeting.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Cycling Through Montezuma

    It was a great morning meeting bikers from all over the US and Canada.  Lots stopped by and were very interested in learning more about the great Erie Canal history and our plans for the park in Montezuma.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Cycling Along the Erie Canal -- Welcome to Montezuma

    The Montezuma Historical Society will be set up near the post office Wednesday, July 13th to welcome and cheer the bikers traveling through Montezuma on their way across the state for the 13th Cycling the Erie Canal tour. About 500 will be passing through on their trip that started in Buffalo on Sunday traveling across the state reaching Albany on Sunday.  The bikers were scheduled to be in Seneca Falls today and will be riding through Montezuma tomorrow with a scheduled rest stop in Port Byron at the Middle School.

    Monday, July 4, 2011


    Plans are in the works for the Canal Splash Celebration this year on Saturday, August 13th.  Following the tour of sites in Montezuma, there will be a picnic in Memorial Park, and a rare showing of a classic film in the town hall that depicts life as it was on the Erie Canal in upstate New York set in the mid-19th century.

    "The Farmer Takes a Wife" opened as a 1934 Broadway play based on a novel, "Rome Haul"  by Walter D. Edmonds.  This film is the 1953 movie version of “A Farmer Takes a Wife,” starring Betty Grable and Dale Robertson. The movie was based on Walter Edmond’s novel "Rome Haul," and is a tale of love and conflict along the Erie Canal.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Heritage Park Design Committee Meeting (HPDC)

    The monthly HPDC meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 23rd, 7pm at the Montezuma Town Hall. Items up for discussion this month are signage, kiosk, trail designation, and funding sources.  Anyone is welcome to join the group or just attend the meeting.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011


    Mike Riley has posted the schedule for this year's Following the Flow Canal Splash Tour. For information and updates visit: This is a joint program sponsored by the historical societies of Weedsport, Port Byron and Montezuma.

    Saturday, June 4, 2011


    What happened to our canal town that was once bustling with small businesses and civic organizations that helped support the needs of the community?  The Erie Canal was the catalyst that led Montezuma to grow and prosper by providing a man-made flow of commerce, trade and activity for the town.  When it became time for the old canals to close and move to the outskirts of town,  I believe we lost a sense of place that held it together.  Was the old just really abandoned left to a pile of ashes, or is it ready to give rise to something new.  The new Erie Canal/Seneca River is still on the outskirts of the center of town. We are still connected to it by the parkland that holds our culture and heritage that gratefully has been preserved. We have an opportunity to bring this community alive again through it.   It's flowing and alive with possibility for the town.

    When Dan Randolph and my husband, Stan were digging the holes for the sign, they hit ashes. Much of the town burned down with fires that year after year finally destroyed what once existed here.  I found it interesting that we discovered those ashes on the site and at a time where and when we have started to rebuild a sense of our identity and place lost so long ago.

    In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a mythical bird with a colorful plumage  It has a 500 to 1000 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes. It then has the ability to be reborn from its own ashes and become the offspring of the older one.

    The Phoenix has long been presented as a symbol of rebirth, immortality, and renewal. The Belgian silver coin commemorating sixty years of peace, depicts the Phoenix as a representation of a new Europe, post 1945. The capital of Arizona was so named as it was built on the ruins of a civilization that had existed on the site centuries before. What endless possibilities are there ready for the Halls of Montezuma to rebirth and renew? As the offspring of the older Phoenix, what can we do to rebuild from the ruins of the past?

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011


    We now have our first officially named trail in the Montezuma Heritage Park!  On Memorial Day we had a wonderful turnout to dedicate the Byron Lapp Memorial Trail. It was a day of honoring and celebration that brought to life what our town stands for:  coming together in community -- and returning to the sense of place that has stood the test of time.  Dominick Recckio, Byron's great-grandson, summed up what the day was all about when he spoke on behalf of his family saying  "how honored they were to have the first trail named in honor of his great-grandfather. He would be very humbled, and very proud."

    The look of smiling faces says it all!

    Friday, May 27, 2011


    Above: Town Supervisor John Malenick, his friends from Oswego, Chris and Josh, and Stan Longyear work on the landscaping for the Byron Lapp Memorial Trail Dedication on Monday. A plaque donated by the Thurston Schramm-Reynolds VFW Post 8137, Mens & Ladies Auxiliary, AM VETS, War Dads and the Montezuma Historical Society will be placed on the stone that was part of the crossover bridge at this Erie Canal Site. 

    Below:  Dan Randolph and Stan Longyear, long time Scout buddies from their youth, and both veterans of Viet Nam dig holes for a sign donated by Farm Boy Graphics.

    What does Hoopes Park have in common with Heritage Park?

    I read with interest Carmen Cosentino's article about Hoopes Park in today's Citizen.  The title of the article is "The park that almost wasn't." I thought for a minute he must be writing about the Montezuma Heritage Park. 

    He was writing about the Memorial Day second annual Healing Field, Field of Hopes and Dreams event sponsored by St. Joseph's School. To think, that the Hoopes Park almost didn't happen and what everyone whose ever enjoyed that beautiful park in Auburn would have missed.
    I used to go there on my lunch hour never knowing that one day I would be involved with a park project in my hometown town. Would you believe that Hoopes Park was once a rubbish and ash dumping ground before the days of landfills?  So was the old Erie Canal and Dry Dock Basin area in the land that Byron Lapp helped the town acquire back in the 1960s and 1970s. We could have ended up with never having access to this beautiful historic area.  Herman Hoopes donated land back in the 1920s to be turned into a park." It took several years of hearings, meetings and arguing." Carm says, "Sound familiar?"  I can't help but wonder again, "Is he talking about Auburn or Montezuma?"  

    I guess there will always be those nay-sayers who are afraid of change; who can't see the importance of our heritage. We're not talking a million-dollar park here. We're talking simple historic trails, to preserve our heritage, and  to enjoy the beauty of the natural resources that we in this rural area of the Finger Lakes can so quickly take for granted. We talking about pride in our community. The same pride that the soldiers have who go to war for their country and proudly serve. 

    This day is dedicated to those who gave their life, and to the beauty of parkland, and to Byron Lapp who worked so hard to preserve it!

    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    Heritage Park Design Committee Meeting (HPDC)

    There will be a HPDC meeting on Thursday, May 26 at 7 PM at the Town Hall.  Anyone interested is welcome to attend. 

    I have updated this blog (click on the new page links at the top of the page) to introduce you to our committee and describe the conceptual plan and trail system the committee has been discussing for the park. Mike Riley has created this as a working document for the basis of our action plan.

    The dedication of the first trail in memory of Byron Lapp will be held on Memorial Day, May 30th with the program starting at the VFW at 2 PM.  Chicken BBQ by the Men's VFW Auxiliary from 11-?
    (more details on the blog post below)

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011


    The Town of Montezuma Highway employees, Jeff Dawson and Denny Lapp, Jr, have at demolished an old shed that remains on the historic property recently purchased by the Town of Montezuma just north of the firehouse on High Street.  Two old trailers have been removed and a stone from the crossover bridge has been placed along the trail as a marker in preparation for a Memorial Day Trail Dedication Ceremony.

    This site is adjacent to the towpath head located at what was the junction point of the Erie Canal and Cayuga-Seneca Canal. The remains of an abutment that held the crossover bridge which allowed drivers and teams to navigate between the canals are along the bank of the Erie Canal and site. The historic Exchange Hotel was built on this lot Circa 1830 and burned in 1918. 

     On Monday, May 30th at 2 PM, the Montezuma Thurston-Schramm-Reynolds VFW will join with the Montezuma Historical Society for a traditional service to honor a National Remembrance of those who have died in service to their country.  As part of the Memorial Day event, the Town of Montezuma will recognize former town supervisor, Byron Lapp, for his dedication in service to his country and community. He is being honored by naming the first trail in Montezuma Heritage Park.

    Byron served as Town Supervisor from 1966 to 1975. During that time he worked to acquire 136 acres of property with help of funding through the Outdoor Recreation Development Bond Act and Water Conservation Act of 1965. The site contained several historic sites of early Erie Canal history and natural resources along the Seneca River and adjacent to the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge.  He also was instrumental in acquiring public water for the Town of Montezuma during his tenure.  Byron was a Army veteran of World War II and received a Silver Metal. He also was one of the early commanders of the VFW. Following his service as town supervisor, he was killed in a tragic muckland farming accident. His wife, Agnes is a lifelong resident and one of our oldest residents who resides in town at age 94.

    Guest speakers for the trail dedication will include former town lawyer Peter Corning who assisted Byron with the legal aspects of acquiring the eight parcels; Mike Riley, Canal Society of New York; Town Supervisor, John Malenick; and a Proclamation presented by Cayuga County Legislator David Axton.  Members of the Port Byron Band will play music throughout the event. The VFW Men's Auxiliary will hold a Chicken BBQ from 11 AM - ? The Thurston-Schramm-Reynolds Post 8137, Ladies & Men Auxiliary and AMVETS Post 513, and the Montezuma Historical Society contributed the plaque to be placed on the historic stonework of the crossover bridge abutment which will officially be named the Byron Lapp Memorial Trail at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

    This signifies an important turning point for Montezuma in building of a greater sense of community by preserving the land which defines us, on which lives, livelihoods, and legacies were grounded. According to Senator George I. Mitchell in the Forward of a book about communities called Groundswell, "the passion for 'place' that defines a community is often the key element for achieving surprising agreement and positive results."

    Join us in honoring those who have served our country, gave their lives for our freedom, and for Byron's work to preserve this important piece of history!

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011


    I read an article that I saved from the 2010 September/October issue of Talk of the Towns which I recently revisited. It's a reprint from the Planning Commissioners Journal about considering art as a part of community planning. The article by Ric Stephens says that public art is rarely included in planning because art doesn't match the traditional approach to planning.  Planners often ignore art because it cannot be quantified. It implies emotion and subjectivity, and we believe planning must be rational and objective.

    The article goes on to explain it's a complex subject when considering art in the community's planning processes, yet there's evidence when measured in terms of increased property values, public participation, visitor and resident satisfaction, it adds real value to yielding a vital community. Signage for example can go beyond basic way-finding to help with the community's identity and sense of place.  Another example of art are the murals seen in towns and cities across the country that have become a cherished part of the civic landscape. They are visual products of a powerful collaborative grassroots process in communities, and a great source of inspiration to residents and visitors. The mural-making process gives communities a voice to tell their individual and collective stories, a way to pass on culture and tradition.

    Mark DeCracker of Lyons has worked to bring a dream of a friend, Noel Dobbins a reality. Noel's dream was of having 50 miles of murals along the Erie Canal.  Noel's vision was just underway when he died in October of 2007. Mark has gone on to inspire and help communities along the Erie Canal corridor to plan mural projects.

    Montezuma is the only canal town between Macedon and Syracuse that doesn't have a mural. The Montezuma Historical Society is working to Close the Gap, and put Montezuma on the map of murals across the state.  As part of fund raising for the project, the Society is offering a chance to win two 2012 season tickets for a Dinner Cruise at the Camillus Erie Canal Park.

    Please help us close the gap!

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Heritage Park Design Committee Meeting

    There will be a meeting of the Design Committee this Thursday, April 28th at 7 PM at the Town Hall.

    Everyone is welcome to attend,  learn more about the project and help develop the plans. It is the intention of the committee to work with the community to consider preferences with regard to the park; identify issues and develop strategies for sustaining the historic and natural resources of the park; and identify phases needed to plan for orderly and manageable growth.

    At the last meeting the committee discussed the overall objectives for the Heritage Park as opportunities to explain the history, create water access, youth development, community involvement, preservation, and marketing opportunities to Naturalists. It was recognized that there is significant potential for tourism as a growing part of the canal system. The committee noted important reasons for the Town to develop the park for use were preserving town's canal heritage, potential for economic, community development and involvement, recreational uses for the community and visitors, and the interpretation of the unique story for interpretation with regard to use and abuse of natural resources.

    A goal was set to establish phases for the Heritage Park to work on over the next few months which will be broken into doable phases. Using the information and ideas gathered by the SUNY-ESF student project and through the grant received from the EPF (Environmental Protection Fund) objectives for the project phases will include the overall planning for clearing and layout of trails, developing the trailhead area, signage, dockage, identifying unique habitats, and agreements with agencies for land use.

    Saturday, April 23, 2011


    Were they bald eagles, were they cranes, 
    or was it the Easter Bunny? 

    No....they were volunteer stewards doing service for our community in celebration of Earth Day. 

    The second Clean Sweep event sponsored this week by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County worked on the other end of the towpath trail today in Heritage Park. Twenty-five volunteers with boy cub scouts and girl scouts, and American Heritage Girls traveling from Bloomfield came out to help with the clean up in Heritage Park.  Working on badges for "Care for My Environment" and "Leave No Trace," they were practicing being good stewards of our environment.

    These groups and the leaders are dedicated to helping youth build integrity through service.  Thanks to Amy Barra, Environmental Educator at CCE for coordinating the event.

    and to everyone -- THANKS -- GREAT JOB!