Section 1   Introduction and Overview
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The introduction and overview to the Mohawk Towpath Byway Scenic Conservation Action Plan

The introduction and overview to the Mohawk Towpath Byway Scenic Conservation Action Plan

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Section 1 Introduction and Overview Document Transcript

  • 1. SECTION 1. INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Conservation Action Plan SECTION 1: INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW 1.1 INTRODUCTION TO THE BYWAY The Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway represents an important and unique piece of our country’s history. As the road follows the route of the Old Erie Canal between Schenectady and Waterford or Cohoes it offers a wide variety of natural, cultural, scenic, and recreational opportunities. From touring the Stockade, traveling the rural section of Niskayuna, experiencing the agricultural areas in Clifton Park, connecting to the river in Halfmoon, observing the working landscapes of Colonie, trudging the river bed below Cohoes falls or paddling the waters of Waterford, there are numerous resources and destinations that help visitors experience and interpret the Byway and its stories. 1.2 VISIONS AND GOALS The goal of this Scenic Conservation Action Plan (“Action Plan”) is to guide scenic conservation along the Mohawk Towpath Byway. In this context, scenic conservation is concerned specifically with managing the visual quality of communities and landscapes to preserve and enhance scenic resources. It is widely recognized that areas considered scenic are most often elements of our natural environment, from forests and rivers to mountains and valleys, as well as culturally significant and pastoral landscapes, including farmlands and historic villages. Scenic conservation along the Byway is important not only to enhance its cultural and historical significance, but also because it is integral to maintaining a vibrant economy. Visual quality correlates to economic gain through higher property values, greater retail sales revenue, increased tourist spending, and increased state and local revenues. 1-1
  • 2. SECTION 1. INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Conservation Action Plan Furthermore, there are physiological and psychological benefits to residents – scenic conservation and enhancement can create better places to live. Yet, there is increasing impetus for communities to recognize that the scenic qualities that make them special – rural character, historic and cultural resources, recreational opportunities, and natural environment – are being threatened by incremental growth and development. “The Mohawk Towpath Most often impacts to scenery are the result of haphazard Scenic Byway is a regional or incremental development. Projects are often reviewed partnership of communities that will balance the independently on a site-by-site basis, with little promotion of local interests consideration of the broader landscape. Local land use with the protection of scenic, regulations—and the boards and commissions that agricultural, recreational and oversee and implement them—therefore have the most historic resources by: important role in helping to shape how our communities encouraging preservation, grow. The Mohawk Towpath Byway corridor is not immune to these threats, and the unique character of the Byway is at risk due to the pressures of development. The purpose of this Action Plan is to identify the issues and opportunities affecting scenic resources in the Mohawk Towpath Byway corridor and to coordinate future efforts to enhance and protect the Byway’s treasured scenery and its historic landscape character. 1.3 PROCESS TO DATE visitor accommodations and intermodal access; coordinating interpretation, promotion and signage; and emphasizing the important historic transportation role of the river valleys and the resultant cultural/industrial development so important to the westward expansion of the country.” - Vision and Goals Statement of the Mohawk Towpath Byway Corridor Management Plan This Scenic Conservation Action Plan is the culmination of a four-step process that began over five years ago: (a) engaging the partners; (b) inventorying and assessing scenic quality; (c) identifying and prioritizing scenic issues; and (d) developing scenic conservation strategies. This process has laid the groundwork for the continuing scenic conservation efforts within the Byway. 1.3.1 ENGAGING THE PARTNERS In order to identify issues and opportunities related to the scenic qualities of the Byway and engage interested parties, the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition Inc. (the Coalition), with assistance from Scenic America, America’s Byway Resource Center and New York State Department of Transportation, hosted a two-day workshop for municipalities, businesses, local government entities, and community groups in the vicinity. Approximately 30 people attended the workshop on June 12 and 13, 2007, located at the New York Regional Department of Transportation Headquarters in Schenectady. The 1-2
  • 3. SECTION 1. INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Conservation Action Plan workshop was structured similarly to the four steps of overall scenic conservation planning process. On the first day, participants took a tour along a segment of the Byway and identified aspects of the area’s scenic character that would enhance or detract from visitors’ experiences. Both during the trip and on the second day of the workshop, participants discussed how to prioritize the issues raised, opportunities for improvement, and how to develop an action plan going forward. 1.3.2 ASSESSING, INVENTORYING, AND MAPPING THE BYWAY’S SCENIC QUALITY Following the initial engagement workshop in 2007, LandWorks prepared Landscape Analysis for the Mohawk Towpath Byway to inventory and assess the Byway’s scenic resources. In this evaluation, which forms the basis for Section 2: Inventory and Assessment of this Action Plan, the Byway was separated into eight Landscape Categories. Under each category, existing conditions, key issues, and opportunities, and preliminary recommendations were identified as they relate to the Byways’ scenic character. This evaluation of the existing conditions along the Byway served as a launching point to identify and prioritize specific issues and to develop strategies going forward. 1.3.3 IDENTIFYING AND PRIORITIZING SCENIC ISSUES To refine and prioritize the scenic issues and opportunities identified in the first two stages of the process, three additional workshops were carried out in towns along the Byway. In the spring of 2011, LandWorks facilitated workshops in Schenectady, Waterford, and Rexford, which both presented the inventory and analysis to date and gathered input about key issues and opportunities. These workshops helped to identify specific issues and initiatives to prioritize, such as building a new bike path on Crescent-Cohoes Road, adding roadside screening buffers at the Colonie Landfill, and creating new pull-offs at key scenic locations along the Byway. These opportunities, and others, are discussed in more detail in Section 3.3: Important Initiatives. 1.3.4 DEVELOPING SCENIC CONSERVATION STRATEGIES The final step of the process is to identify specific scenic conservation strategies that are relevant to the Byway context, and to assemble a toolbox of these strategies as a reference. Section 4: Scenic Conservation Strategies of this Action Plan is this toolbox. This section includes strategies ranging in scope and scale from regulatory techniques, to site design and layout, to material selection. These strategies have been developed based both on professional experience in landscape management and scenic conservation, as well as on a number of resources that are listed in the Resources section at the end of this report. 1-3
  • 4. SECTION 1. INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW Mohawk Towpath Byway: Scenic Conservation Action Plan 1.4 IMPLEMENTATION This Action Plan provides a set of tools to help guide growth and development in a manner that protects and enhances the Mohawk Towpath Byway’s scenic character. It is developed around two main sections: Section 2: Inventory and Assessment and Section 4: Scenic Conservation Strategies. The Inventory and Assessment section defines eight distinct ‘Landscape Categories’ that exist within the Byway corridor, ranging in density from ‘Open Land’ to ‘Village Mixed-Use.’ The Scenic Conservation Strategies section provides a toolbox of specific planning and design practices that can be used by state agencies, municipal boards, developers and property owners to help preserve and enhance the scenic character of the Byway. "Birds Eye View of Cohoes N.Y. in 1859, showing Cohoes Falls, Erie Canal & Harmony Mills" (U.S. 229 - no publisher info.) - Double postcard; not postmarked; 1915? http://www.eriecanal.org/east-2.html 1-4