The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $416,880 grant for two projects that will improve public access to the Mohawk Towpath Byway at the Vischer Ferry Historic and Nature Preserve.
The grant from the Federal Highway Administration Byway program will pay for access and safety improvements at two locations at either end of the 600-acre preserve.
The projects will include rehabilitation of the historic bridge abutment to the towpath at the end of Ferry Drive at the west end of the preserve, and access improvements at Clute’s Dry Dock on the east end.
“It’s all about increasing access to the Vischer Ferry Preserve,” said Eric Hamilton, executive director of the non-profit Mohawk Towpath Byway.
The restored Ferry Drive bridge abutment will provide an overlook of the Mohawk River and Erie Canal, and is also a popular fishing spot, Hamilton said.
The grant also includes money for reconstructing an old farmer’s bridge at Clute’s Dry Dock, the site of a historic Erie Canal dry dock community.
The grant was announced earlier this month by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, one of seven grants DOT awarded in New York state.
Local officials said the money will provide important access improvements in the preserve running along the north side of the Mohawk River.
“Crossing the Historic Canal at Clute’s is a key, critical access along a long stretch of the Towpath Trail. It’s the first access point west of the town of Halfmoon town line and Canal Road, some 4,000 feet to the east,” Hamilton said.
The $416,880 is the largest grant the byway has ever received.
The towpath byway has been getting some additional attention recently, with a group organized by the Southern Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce working to restore the historic Erie Canal Lock 19 along the towpath in the nature preserve.
The towns of Halfmoon and Clifton Park are planning a project for next year that will improve the trail for easier use by bicyclists, cross-country skiers, hikers and others.