The Montezuma Heritage Park now consists of over 165 acres of parkland that were acquired by the Town of Montezuma in the 1960’s to be preserved for its significant natural and historic resources. In 2010, a Park Design Committee was appointed to plan for development of the park because of its potential for use by the community and visitors to enjoy as a beautiful recreational nature park. It includes rich natural resources and many historic canal sites along the Seneca River/Erie Canal that tell the story of New York State’s Canal System from 1820 to today.
The race is named for the famous Richmond aqueduct which was built in 1849 to carry the Erie Canal waters over the Seneca River. It was the second largest aqueduct on the Enlarged Erie. When New York State changed the route of the canal to the Barge Canal System in 1917, it was dismantled. Seven beautifully preserved arches remain on the east side of the river, and three on the west side.
Located in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region just north of Cayuga Lake and the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, the park includes shoreline along the scenic Seneca River and New York State Canal System. In addition to the remains of the Richmond aqueduct, there are a number of other sites including the remains of a canal dry dock, locks, and a paper mill that are part of a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a proud Point of Interest along the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.
The Park includes an extensive system of trails that are presently being developed to guide the visitor through the park along a series of meandering trails that provide a safe place to run or walk some of which are the original towpaths where hoggies pulled the canal boats by horse and mule. Because of the diversified nature of the Park, the trails system is being designed to lead to several interesting historic sites that circle or loop to create more visual interest.
There are two trailhead entrances with kiosks to the park. The High Street entrance is located just off State Route 90 in the hamlet north of the firehouse. This will be the starting and ending point for the race along the historic towpath now called the Byron Lapp Memorial Trail. It’s located at a historic site where the Cayuga-Seneca Canal connected with the Erie Canal. The second trailhead entrance is located on Chapman Road at the entrance of the Aqueduct Trail.
Montezuma was one of the many towns, cities and villages that grew up around and prospered from the success of the Erie Canal as a part of the Canal-building boom in New York in the 1820s. The lateral Cayuga-Seneca Canal also joined the Erie here in 1828 opening transportation up to the Finger Lakes and beyond. Many immigrants settled here where they worked long and hard on “Clinton’s Ditch” to create this magnificent waterway. The heritage of the Erie Canal helped form a whole new culture that influenced the town which we still celebrate today.
The Montezuma Aqueduct 5K Run/Walk was created to celebrate our Erie Canal Heritage and provide an enjoyable place to run or walk in a beautiful natural setting. The park’s development has been an all volunteer, grass-roots effort to help our community and preserve our natural and historic resources. Proceeds from the run will help our efforts to make it an enjoyable place for all to come! For more information about park plans visit: http://www.montezumahistoricalsociety.org/friends-of-the-park/park-plans/
For more information about visiting Cayuga County and the Finger Lakes Region visit the tourcayuga.com