Plans to turn a historic Erie Canal motorized barge into a floating museum that would travel the canal have received federal funding, Gov. David Paterson announced Thursday.
The proposed conversion of the canal freighter Day Peckinpaugh will receive $3.1 million, said Clifford Siegfried, director of the New York State Museum.
“It was built specifically to the dimensions of the canal,” Siegfried said. “It is the only one left of its kind.”
The museum’s rehabilitation of the 88-year-old cargo barge was one of five bike-pedestrian transportation and historic preservation projects in the Capital Region to receive funding.
Together, they will bring the area $9 million in federal money, from a combination of conventional transportation funding and the federal economic stimulus legislation.
“These projects will make necessary improvements to our local walkways, bicycle paths and other transportation routes while spurring economic development and job creation,” Paterson said in a statement.
Of $81 million in projects statewide, Paterson said $34 million is coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The 259-foot-long barge was built in 1921, and hauled first wheat, then coal during World War II and finally cement, until the 1990s, Siegfried said. The state museum and partner agencies bought it in 2005, after it had sat idle for 10 years.
“It is of such historical significance we could not let it go to the scrap heap.” Siegfried said.
The ship is currently at Peeble’s Island State Park in Waterford. The museum’s plan is to convert it over the next three years into a floating museum that can travel to communities on the canal; its home port would be the old Matton Shipyard in Cohoes, part of Peeble’s Island State Park.
Paterson also announced $2.45 million was awarded for rehabilitation of the Dix Bridge across the Hudson River north of Schuylerville, which has been closed since the 1990s. The bridge will be repaired for pedestrian and bicycle use, linking Saratoga and Washington counties as part of a new park.
“This is wonderful news. The Dix Bridge is really a pivotal link for us,” said Marlene Bissell, president of Hudson Crossing Park, the non-profit corporation developing the new park being on both sides of the river in the area of Lock 5.
The bridge was built in 1895 by the prominent Dix family and was the first toll-free bridge in the area, Bissell said. “It has a very significant history behind it.”
lights and parks
In Montgomery County, the governor said $1 million was awarded for streetscape improvements around Church and Main streets in Canajoharie.
The village will get new sidewalks and streetlights in its downtown area. “It’s really a whole new image for downtown Canajoharie,” said Mayor Leigh Fuller.
With Beech-Nut’s manufacturing plant soon to leave the village, Fuller hopes the improvements will help Canajoharie become more of a tourism destination. “It’s beautiful here,” he said.
In Schoharie County, Cobleskill will receive $1.4 million for a bike path and other improvements along Route 7 between the new railroad bridge and Schoharie Parkway.
There will also be $2.5 million in funding to establish a public park with nature and fitness trails along West Brook in the village of Lake George.
In all, Paterson announced funding for 59 projects. There will be more projects funded in the future, state Transportation Commissioner Astrid Glynn said.
“NYSDOT is encouraging entities planning diverse transportation projects to consider applying for funding from this innovative federal program in the future,” she said.