Clifton Park, NY - One of the proudest achievements for the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County (CSSC) of the past decade has been the renovation and ongoing annual maintenance of Historic Lock 19 in Vischer Ferry.
When Eric Hamilton, the Executive Director of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway, brought me out there to view the structure in 2011 it was beginning to fall apart from the years of neglect and the tree roots which were forcing their way into gaps in the stones.
The CSSC board was very eager to do an impactful community service project. Jim Wachala of Turner Construction and Doug Ford of Curtis Lumber swung into action very quickly, agreeing to spearhead a project involving area students.
Shenendehowa School Superintendent Dr. Oliver Robinson connected us with educators within the district who could organize teams of interested students. Paul Browning, then at GE Power, and Josh Spain of Momentive helped organize engineers to mentor the students, and the project took shape.
In the end, the effort involved some 80 students from the high school, dozens of Chamber member volunteers, some community partners, the Town of Clifton Park, and the New York State Canal Corporation. We even had then-Assemblyman Jim Tedisco out there with us, pulling out stumps.
By 2013 not only was the Lock cleaned up and stabilized, but a bridge had been erected so that people could access the center section of the Lock for the first time since it was drained in 1917.
The successful renovation work at Historic Lock 19 spurred new initiatives such as the Saratoga County Community Development Program. This program is supported in part by the Saratoga County Economic Development Committee of supervisors and has enabled the CSSC to perform similar tasks in other communities as well as find ways to support area events, fairs, festivals and operate the Clifton Park Visitor Center on the Northway.
The renovation work spurred CSSC to establish a program in conjunction with Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett called “Discover Clifton Park”.
Now an affiliate of the Capital Region Chamber, the CSSC has never wavered from its commitment to maintain Historic Lock 19 in conjunction with the Town of Clifton Park, even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was very exciting to read a thread on Facebook the other day, where a visitor shared photos and details with canal enthusiasts from all over the country.
The Lock looked great, even after a stormy winter, because the last maintenance crew was there in October. People were impressed, and that means a greater appreciation for our wonderful community and hopefully more visitors in the future.