This is one of the most challenging intrinsic values to document within the Mohawk Towpath Byway corridor. Very little is included in our corridor management plan. Looking back on the history of the Byway nearly twenty years I think the reason for this is our area has evolved with the influence of so many cultures.
In frustration I consulted my trusted Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. Keep in mind that “new” in this case means “50 years old.” Webster’s says,
“Cultural, adj. 1. of or pertaining to culture; specify., of the training and refinement of the intellect, interests, taste, skills, and arts.”
Our area has a rich and growing interest in cultural significance starting with such institutions as Proctors, Albany Symphony, Albany Institute of History and Art, Empire Youth Orchestra and many more. We even have two strong well established Public Radio Stations as these types of cultural opportunities are flagging elsewhere in the country. One institution that has done the most to preserve and interpret our cultural heritage is the New York State Museum. It is a well established fact through anecdotal and statistical evidence that if a foreign visitor ventures out of New York City to learn of our local culture they will visit the New York State Museum. We also have the New York Folklore Society and many local historical societies and local museums too numerous to mention lest I leave out one or more!
Yes, this area has been the benefactor of so many cultures starting with Native American culture. Early Dutch influences still remain with their abilities to tolerate and learn from native cultures, while preserving their architectural influences. Other influences included the early English fleeing the religious intolerance in New England or just “moving west” to richer farm land, the Irish who provided the labor to build the Erie Canal though the western wilderness, to the immigrants from all over the world who provides knowledge, ideas, and willingness to fuel the Industrial Revolution and try new innovations today in the Information Age.
Perhaps one of the Mohawk Towpath Byway’s greatest assets is a culture of caring for our heritage and our historic resources from the local historical societies and the inspiration they provide for their communities, families and individuals. Many of our local planners, local historians have been the most active and most passionate about contributing to the development of the Byway and it’s Corridor Management Plan. Even in the relative recent establishment of the Friends of the Byway have retained and built upon a culture of preservation and caring that will serve the Byway well into the future. The business plan for the Mohawk Towpath Byway Coalition and the action plan for the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway provides the inspiration and road map for this effort.