Tourmate #4: Magnet for Tourism

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Natural Forces and Native People

The Hudson River has been a heavily used waterway for years beyond memory. Sadly, it became a waterway that was heavily abused as well.

For many generations, human and agricultural wastes were unceremoniously dumped into the River. Later, as industries gained a footing along the Hudson a variety of toxic chemicals further polluted the water.

Slowly, people came to realize - the resources that once seemed limitless were quite finite.

This stark realization focused national attention to the appalling situation and led to the environmental movement in the middle decades of the 20th century. Through the efforts of many individuals and organizations at the local, state and national levels, new standards for clean air and water were set and enforced. Polluters were fined and mitigation of damage and restoration of the environment was begun.

The landscape before you has been witness to changes we can only imagine. From vast sheets of glacial ice, an astonishing 2 miles high, to the flooding meltwaters that created Lake Albany, the changes have been profound.

Today, the Hudson River is a far cry from its pristine condition of 500 years ago. Yet with increased awareness, greater sensitivity, and careful stewardship, the future of the River is once again bright.

Please - join with Hudson Crossing Park volunteers or groups like Scenic Hudson, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and the Hudson River Foundation in supporting efforts both great and small to care for this amazing legacy of ours.

Conflict and Settlement

In 1767, Philip Schuyler erected a flax mill - the first of its kind in the country - on the Fish Creek at Saratoga. For this, he was awarded a medal from the "Society for Promoting Arts". It was the start of industrialization in our region. The resulting exploitation of resources would reach well into the 20th century. 

The environmental movement begun in the 1960's was fervently embraced by many but not by all. Newly minted laws placed restrictions on disposal of waste and use of certain pesticides. This required changes of thinking and operations which some felt would inhibit agriculture and industry, making it more difficult to operate in a profitable manner. 

At the same time, rising costs of living caused friction between members of the workforce and their employers. Higher wages meant a further bite out of profits, and many industries moved to areas outside the region with less stringent environmental rules and cheaper labor. 

As local industries shut down it lessened pollution into the River. Unfortunately, the closing of mills and factories was also a severe blow to the region's economic health. 

This conflict continues to plague us today. It is a precarious - and political - balance that we struggle to face. On global, national, and state levels the battles are waged. In our own backyard we must strive to bring environmental responsibility to economic revitalization for one must not preclude the other.

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Conflict and Settlement

In 1767, Philip Schuyler erected a flax mill - the first of its kind in the country - on the Fish Creek at Saratoga. For this, he was awarded a medal from the "Society for Promoting Arts". It was the start of industrialization in our region. The resulting exploitation of resources would reach well into the 20th century.

The environmental movement begun in the 1960's was fervently embraced by many but not by all. Newly minted laws placed restrictions on disposal of waste and use of certain pesticides. This required changes of thinking and operations which some felt would inhibit agriculture and industry, making it more difficult to operate in a profitable manner.

At the same time, rising costs of living caused friction between members of the workforce and their employers. Higher wages meant a further bite out of profits, and many industries moved to areas outside the region with less stringent environmental rules and cheaper labor.

As local industries shut down it lessened pollution into the River. Unfortunately, the closing of mills and factories was also a severe blow to the region's economic health.

This conflict continues to plague us today. It is a precarious - and political - balance that we struggle to face. On global, national, and state levels the battles are waged. In our own backyard we must strive to bring environmental responsibility to economic revitalization for one must not preclude the other.

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Corridor of Commerce

Transportation through this region has seen enormous change. Dugout canoes and bateaux gave way to canal boats; first drawn by mules and horses, later propelled by tugs.

Railways provided a great deal of competition to the canals through the 19th Century. Some thought the days of canals were nearing an end. However, in 1905, at the height of the railroad industry's influence, New York's voters approved a referendum to improve the canal system. This re-built Barge Canal remains in service today as the oldest continuously-operating canal in our Nation. Well into the 20th Century, here on the Champlain Canal a variety of products continued to be shipped through the region: agricultural produce for urban markets and jet fuel for the United States Air Force base in Plattsburg, NY among them.

By the 1970's commercial traffic on the canal all but ceased. Some attributed the decline to the Interstate Highway System's expansion and success. More realistically, the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1954 allowed ocean-going vessels direct access to the Great Lakes ports. The Seaway threatened to make hundreds of miles of canals in New York State obsolete.

Although commercial traffic declined, canals provided a route for pleasure craft, a strong trend that has continued to the present day. Miles of Canalway Trail stretch across the State with more being built each year. Boaters and cyclists now explore the waterways where once Native People hunted and fished, where European people explored and fought to create empires in the wilderness and a new nation had its first real military triumph, a place where everyday people carved out a living on farms and in factories.

Today, new shops have sprung up in small waterfront communities to meet the needs of these boaters and cyclists. Congestion on traditional, land-based transportation routes and increased fuel costs have manufacturers, growers, shippers and freight-forwarders looking back to water transportation as a green, efficient, and cost-effective means of moving cargo and produce. In 2012, tonnage on the N.Y.S. Canal surpassed 40,000 tons for the first time in over 15 years, with continued growth predicted for the near future.

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Magnet for Tourism

What stories would the Hudson River tell us if it could speak? Would it be the stories of Native People's lives as they hunted and farmed along its banks? Or would it be the European explorers' sense of stunned amazement to a land so different than the one they had left?

Perhaps it might tell of the events of 1777 when the United States defeated and captured an entire British army, events that would change the course of world history. Maybe it would tell of the commercial enterprises that altered the landscape and sometimes damaged the fragile ecological systems. Or would the tales be told in the music of canal workers or songbirds?

With so many different stories and features, it is not surprising that tourism has become one of our region's most important industries. The unique natural and cultural histories attract people of all ages from near and far who travel to discover the scenic byways along the "Lakes to Locks Passage".

The kayak launch, just a few steps west from here, provides one stop along the Hudson River "Blueway Trail - a water trail that begins in N.Y.C. far to our south and connects us to the water pathways of Lake Champlain, Vermont, and Canada.

The Champlain Canalway Trail above you offers miles of opportunity for both cyclists and pedestrians to enjoy waterfront recreation. Avid birders have recorded close to a hundred species of birds along these Hudson Crossing Park trails - so watch closely and listen carefully as you explore.

Tourism is not new to the area, but it has provided stimulus to an economy that suffered when industries left. The stories of our region's cultural, natural and historical attractions are powerful, but often those attractions are fragile and irreplaceable.

In the past, wealth was acquired by exploiting, often ruthlessly, any and all resources until they were exhausted. Unlike such outdated economic endeavors, modern tourism actively promotes the premise that human activity can - indeed must - coexist with nature.

At Hudson Crossing Park the stories that are preserved are our stories; the nature that is conserved is our children's inheritance. Their value is not measured simply in dollars and cents, but rather in the wonder that enriches our lives. It is ours to preserve, to protect and to promote. Please - visit the Park often and discover anew the treasures that await you. You can learn more about the Park at www.HudsonCrossingPark.org.