Richmond Aqueduct

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

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What's The Secret Ingredient?

Way down in the Southern west corner of Georgia sits a small town named Colquitt, with big dreams, and no limits.  I had the pleasure of visiting Colquitt with a population of 2000, not much bigger than Montezuma, attending a conference called, "Building Creative Communities, The Art of Storytelling, Community Building & Social Change."  It's taken me some time to digest all that I received from attending. In addition to the warmth of the Southern sunshine, a much welcome break from our winter here in Central New York, and their genuine southern hospitality, I felt a warmth that went beyond the sunshine. It was the heart and soul of a town alive that had been miraculously transformed. The air tingled with it;  you seen it in the smiles on their faces; and you heard and were touched by their voices as they humbly expressed from their hearts pride for their community.

What makes this town so special?  What is their secret? They learned how to think outside the box. The box that had them trapped in thinking the same old way. They changed from thinking of themselves as a place limited with nothing  (no-thing) to seeing what they already possessed and could tap into. The pride they have today was earned by breaking down barriers of the "norm" that was only supporting more of the status quo and coming into their greatness through their greatest resource --  the people.

According to Karen Kimbrel, one of the conference coordinators in a book published about Colquitt's progress, "What makes this community different from other small rural communities in the U.S. is the magic ingredient -- Creativity. Creative communities are different from traditional community and economic development models because creative communities rely on human potential, knowledge and capabilities as opposed to tangible goods and deliverable services. Also, rather than being physical place-focused, they are about human spirit......When creative projects enter the picture, people establish new and exciting networks to obtain social and economic entrees where before only walls existed preventing entrance." That is a powerful statement that comes from a new perspective of empowering people to use their own inborn gifts to create community.

So, Karen has given us the secret ingredient -- creativity.  We have people -- so we have creativity. The question becomes how can we go beyond the "norm," or have we become too comfortable or numb to the status quo?  Can we shake the box open a little and peak in to see what's possible. Karen said, "if Colquitt could do it, any town can." I'm going to hang on to that statement. What I came away with most from the conference was hope, because they helped me recognize and see what is possible. Thank you Colquitt!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Through unexpected funding from the Canal Corporation, the historical societies of Weedsport, Port Byron and Montezuma were able to have a new website designed that highlights the history of the canals in Cayuga County.  Mike Riley worked with web designer Adams Sweet of Sweet Designs to build the site. Check out the interactive map that leads to additional information and photos in each town. There are plenty of links to other resources and an events calendar in the works as well as other content that will be added.

Plans will be to build on the site to offer more material that will be especially useful to local teachers.

Monday, February 21, 2011


There will be a Heritage Park Design Committee meeting on Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 7 PM at the Montezuma Town Hall. Some of the topics we will be discussing are reviewing final designs ideas presented by the SUNY ESF students, signage, planning for the Canal Sweep clean up, upcoming programs for the year. At our last meeting we decided to make the last Thursday of the month our regular monthly scheduled meeting. This is an open invitation to join our committee, whether it's for one meeting or on a regular basis.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Last Tuesday was another cold, blustery night we've  become accustomed to here in Central New York, but the Halls of Montezuma were warmed with brightly colored visions and ideas posted on the walls of the town hall for what might be possible in the Montezuma Heritage Park.  Representative examples originally done by over forty students of Syracuse's 3rd year landscape architectural design studio last fall were presented by four of the student designers: Lauren Christler, Megan Reymore, Sara Russo and Kyle Weissenburger assisted by  faculty members, Cheryl Doble and Maren King.

Lauren Christler's focus points to an area off of Chapman Avenue
with linkage from past to present.

Most of the designs were focused ideas that linked our community's past Erie Canal history to the present.  Using natural elements of water, plantings and organic contoured paths throughout the park, their designs showcased our history using the remains of historic sites such as the aqueduct and paper mill.  This could be created through time lines flowing from the center of our town along the canal towpath to the park along the Seneca River. Monuments, statues, and an aqueduct sculpture featured throughout the site could tell the story of how the canal was built.  Several recreational activities would provide for fishing, cross country skiing, walking, hiking, picnicking, primitive camping sites,  boat dockage, bird and wildlife observation. Opportunities were seen for Erie Canal and natural resource education using open buildings that could later be enclosed.

The remains of the Montezuma Fibre Company on the south side of
the Enlarged Erie Canal could be made into a landscaped garden or a play area for children.  The site still contains the arched doors shown in the drawing here could be incorporated into the design. 

The 60' by 80' building was  on an eleven feet high foundation. The foundation walls are still on the site. The main building  was brick, two stories high with an attached boiler house 26' by 36', costing $22,000 when it was built in 1906. 

The mill produced a heavy-weight paper product from flag (cattails), known as "Montezuma Wheat" that grew in the 20,000 acre swamp that surrounded the area. The finished product was loaded unto the canal boats for shipment.

It was noted that popular tours that have been offered including the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, Audubon Center and Howland's Island could include this site. Much thought and consideration was given to the landscape of the parkland with boardwalks to protect the land along the flood plain areas and enhance the walking experience.  While much of the park would maintain its natural setting needing little maintenance, it was suggested the park could provide wonderful opportunities for the youth in the community to work in the park.

The students had a variety of practical, creative and innovative ideas to share while keeping with the natural elements and incorporating the Erie Canal historic resources. The design committee will consider the ideas, and begin to create a phased plan for development of the park. Anyone interested is invited to attend the planning meetings to be held on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7:00 PM at the town hall. 

The Town of Montezuma was selected to receive community technical assistance from the 2011 Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program, and will work with Karl Beard from the National Park Service.  RTCA helps communities plan, organize partnerships and achieve on-the-ground success for projects they initiate. We are very grateful to the park service and SUNY ESF for support of our project.

Kyle Weissenburger focused on a Route 31 entrance with a nearby boat launch
marketing to New York State Fishing Clubs.
Maren King of SUNY ESF faculty member discusses student ideas with
Town Supervisor John Malenick;  Stan Longyear and Paul Baker, Design
 Committee members; Bill Hecht; and Karl Beard from the RTCA program at
the National Park Service.