The World Canals Conference, which meets in Syracuse NY in September to celebrate canals as “agents of transformation,” inspired both the theme and destination for the 2017 “Legacy Tour” of Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM)’s replica 1862 canal schooner Lois McClure. The tour pays tribute to the legacy of the canals, which celebrate 200 years in 2017, and the legacy of the Northern Forest trees, which built the thousands of wooden boats that plied our waterways. Planning for this ambitious tour, which reaches 38 ports between July 1 and October 15, is being made possible through a grant from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership (CVNHP) through the National Park Service and the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP)/New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC).
“The Lois McClure has a unique capability to bring 200 years of canal history to life,
while engaging people to appreciate and protect our legacy waterways,” says New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “It can also help inform how the canal system can best serve the evolving needs of present and future generations.” Planning for the Legacy Tour, LCMM has built partnerships with communities and sponsors throughout the canal region, including the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, World Canals Conference, Lake Champlain Transportation, the McClure Family, Cabot Creamery Cooperative and Vermont Family Forests. AmeriCorps Members have helped LCMM staff develop educational and interpretive materials for the project.
Construction of the famed Erie and Champlain Canals began on July 4, 1817 in Rome, NY. The monumental task took nearly a decade to complete, and when finished the commercial success of the canals exceeded all expectations. During the tour, project co-director and LCMM historian Art Cohn will be “Searching for History.” With support from communities along the canal, Cohn will comb area archives to uncover documents that reflect the amazing story of this massive civil engineering project that shaped the new nation.
During the Legacy Tour the schooner crew will share with community members and students a maritime perspective on the relationship between waterways and trees, canal boats and forests through an initiative called Stem to Stern. “The forests and the waterways are a key to understanding how America transformed into a powerful and prosperous nation,” says Erick Tichonuk, LCMM Co-Executive Director. “Using human and animal power, the canal builders cleared a pathway 60 feet wide and more than 400 miles long, much of it through forested lands, to create the water highway that brought an economic boom. Almost overnight, natural resources too bulky to ship overland became valuable commodities.”
“When LCMM built the schooner Lois McClure we used more than 20,000 board feet of sustainably harvested white oak and pine from the Champlain Valley and New York’s Catskill Mountains,” Tichonuk recalls. “During the canal era, thousands of wooden canal boats were built, and then used to move still more lumber to further markets.” The canals opened a floodgate of trade between the Champlain Valley, ports along the Hudson River and the Atlantic Seaboard, and through western New York to the Great Lakes.
However, the transformation also brought some unintended consequences. Stem to Stern is designed to spark insight into the impact of deforestation: eroded soil, silted waterways, loss of habitat for fish and wildlife, and the arrival of invasive species. Marking the transition to an era of sustainable forestry and environmental stewardship, the schooner will transport a cargo of white oak and white pine seedlings provided by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Trees for Tributaries Program, to be planted in communities along the canal.
Further information and the itinerary of the 2017 Legacy Tour can be found at www.lcmm.org. Travel conditions for this traditional wooden vessel are weather dependent, so the schedule is subject to change. Specific locations and hours of public boarding will be announced.