FORT HUNTER – Stabilization of the historic Erie Canal Aqueduct at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site continues with a $1.7 million project announced last week by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
“We are thrilled to be able to undertake this important project and preserve this historic piece of engineering for the enjoyment of all New Yorkers,” Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said in a prepared statement.
The aqueduct was originally built to carry the enlarged Erie Canal over Schoharie Creek in the 1840s, to keep commerce flowing through the unruly waterway that was prone to flooding that caused costly traffic jams.
“It was one of the biggest engineering projects for an enlarged canal,” said Paul Banks, site manager at Schoharie Crossing.
After falling into disuse following the advent of the modern state Canal System, the eastern portion of the waterway was removed to prevent ice jams and obstructions to the flow of Schoharie Creek in about 1941.
Several of the remaining arches that once supported the canal and towpath collapsed over the following decades. Past conservation work has helped keep six of the 14 arches still standing.
“Over the past decades, many of the arches have collapsed,” said Banks. “It’s gotten so bad that we need another stabilization project, which will help hold the canals for another 40 or 50 years.”
The ongoing stabilization project will include extensive repairs to the foundation and canal structure. A new reinforced concrete abutment will be built on a small pile foundation, drilled deep near the sixth arch, to carry the uneven load placed on the foundation farthest from the waterline to stabilize the structure.
Some stone repairs will be made and protected from erosion or destruction of the structure from the river. The project will also include the installation of new interpretive signs to educate visitors about the area’s history.
“This sustainability project ensures that the canals will continue to stand as a monument to our state’s incredible history and engineering achievements, for New Yorkers and visitors alike to experience,” said Brian Stratton, director of the state Canal Corporation, in a prepared statement.
The canal is the most popular area at Schoharie Crossing, often attracting visitors to spend time in the “idyllic” recreation area, Banks said.
“A lot of people like to come and enjoy it not only because of the recreational value, but also because of the historical value,” said Banks. “It is an iconic image of the Erie Canal in the heart of the region dedicated to reminding people of the historical importance of the Erie Canal.”
Maintaining the waterways is important to maintaining the unique historic features that are seen at Schoharie Crossing.
“This area is important in the state, because we have the only place where you can see part of the original canal, the enlarged canal and the modern boat canal within a few yards of each other,” Banks said.
Bob Radliff, executive director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, emphasized the importance of sustainability work ahead of the Erie Canal’s centennial in 2025.
“This important project will provide hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Empire State Trail and the Erie Canal with opportunities to experience history, learn about the far-reaching impacts of New York’s canals, and experience the state’s stewardship of historic resources,” Radliff said in a statement. amended statement.
The ongoing project is funded by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Environmental Protection Fund. Normal operation of the picnic area and boat launch at the site will resume after the work is completed later this year.
Reach Ashley Onyon at (email protected) or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.
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