Parks & Trails New York is fortunate to have a reliable network of volunteers that dedicate their time and energy to help maintain the Erie Canalway Trail, create a welcoming, friendly environment for its users, and offer their assistance to those that they encounter on the trail. Whether through PTNY’s Adopt-a-Trail or Trail Ambassador program, these networks are strengthened by the personal ties that each individual has with the Erie Canalway.
Dave Kellogg has been a Trail Ambassador since 2015. When approached about the opportunity to become an ambassador, a friend told Dave that PTNY will supply the vest and all he would have to do is wear that and a smile and go out on the Canal as he always does. This same friend would introduce Dave to Jamie Kowalczk of the Old Erie Canal Community Working Group (OECCWG), and whom Dave credits as being especially supportive and helpful. Also playing a key role in his growth as an ambassador were Chris O’Neill and Joe DiGeorgio, leaders of the Canal Museums in Chittenango and Canastota, who taught Dave a lot about the past and the current culture of the Canal— this understanding is key to the success of any Ambassador.
Each year brings in an interesting array of Canal travelers. Trail ambassadors are primarily responsible for preserving the history and explaining the significance of the Canalway Trail through their interactions with these travelers. This comes naturally to Dave as lover of history and an engaging host. Dave told me, “how could anyone not be captivated by the adventures of Canal travelers?” Because of this, Dave is the epitome of a reliable Canalway “cheerleader.”
Over the years, Dave has had the pleasure of meeting so many different kinds of people while out of the trail; some travelling the Canalway in preparation for the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, others to participate in Cycle the Erie Canal, and most racking up the miles as part of PTNY’s End-to-End program. From Missouri and Indiana to Switzerland and Spain, the interactions that Dave has on a regular basis have led to the conclusion that “long distance cyclists or hikers are always happy to talk. In instances where they haven’t spoken with someone in miles or hours, stopping is part of the adventure for them.” Part of the allure of running into an ambassador like Dave is learning just where to stop. Dave suggests that users stop “closer to Rome, where the old historic Erie Canalway Trail meets the Barge Canal,” near Lock 21 and “watch boats from kayaks to ocean-going cruisers rise up or drop down 28 feet as they work their way west or east, ” or at the aqueduct in nearby Camillus which spans the Nine-Mile Creek and is the only restored, navigable aqueduct in New York State.
Ambassadors like Dave have a deep appreciation for and knowledge of the section of trail he monitors along the Old Erie Canal State Park. He can articulate this history to interested passerby’s, sharing great facts about the aqueducts between Syracuse and Rome (four in total: Butternut, Limestone, Chittenango and Oneida Creeks) or the unique characteristics of the limestone in the area used for the construction of the aqueducts. It is not surprising that has expressed a fascination with how our forebears cut and moved those massive blocks of stone and put them in place to construct an 18 foot high (or higher!) aqueduct. In addition to serving as an educational resource for trail users, Dave sends out regular communications about construction projects that could impact user access, trail conditions (including interesting wildlife sightings) and activities happening along the Canalway.
Not easily deterred by obstacles, Dave noted that one of the challenges of being an ambassador is monitoring the trail, and travelling along it, during inclement weather. From storms to extreme heat, David offers fellow travelers personal advice – “Take more water than you think you’ll need, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to take a drink.” One notable obstacle that Dave said others ask about often is “Exactly where are we?” We sure are glad people like Dave are around to answer these kind of wayfinding questions.
Dave so eloquently stated that as an ambassador, “you may very well find out that it is not work but an opportunity to experience a new, meaningful and enjoyable time in your life. Besides, someone might even send you a copy of their book”— Dave received a copy of “Adventure Inward” from a traveler he met that was cycling through the Adirondacks and heading south to connect with the Erie Canalway Trail for their return home.
So, if you’re interesting in talking to some interesting individuals (and possibly get some perks out of it) about historical feats and canal culture, we encourage you to consider Parks & Trails New York volunteer programs. We rely on our volunteers to be the eyes, ears, and voice for the Canalway Trail.