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In a month where we haven’t had much rain it sure picked the wrong day to get a steady downpour. This is the second year in a row that Canal Clean Sweep was deluged with rain. At least this year it wasn’t a driving wind and a rainstorm.

South Wall of Clinton Ditch Lock 65

Trail Works, Inc. has adopted the Black Brook Trail section as their Clean-Sweep project for over five years now. Perhaps the name Black Brook Trail can be slightly confusing when this is called Canal Sweep. The reason it is that Black Brook flows right through the center of the trail between Lyons and Clyde. This section of trail is the old towpath on the Erie Canal and is full of history. The towpath became a county trail during the 70’s and now is part of the “Closing the Gaps” section. If you hike this county trail you will start in Lyons near Cole Rd. The hike is on the old towpath, which is now a grass path on the Enlarged Erie Canal, circa 1850. Going east about three miles from Lyons you come to Lock 54. This lock still has water in it, but the canal gates have long disappeared after it was abandon in 1918.

After you cross Gansz Rd. you will find Clinton Ditch Lock 65 circa 1820 about a ½ mile away going east on the trail. You need to look closely but you will find a path to the north that crosses a bridge (Old Erie Canal) comes up to an outlook, that overlooks Lock 65 on Clinton’s Ditch. What makes this stop so special is that for about a quarter of a mile the two historic Erie Canals run side by side. You can also see this lock from Rt. 31 near the Wayne Hills sign. Getting back on the trail, going east you will find Black Brook and the Wegmans passport marker about a quarter of mile away.

Clearing invasive species on Lock 65

Another quarter of a mile you will come to path that takes you to Black Brook Park. This Wayne County park is a hidden gem with a pond to fish in, a baseball diamond, bathrooms and a new picnic shelter. I think I counted at least ten picnic tables, so this would make for a wonderful location for a family reunion, but today it was where Trail Works set up headquarters for the Clean Sweep.

I arrived at 9:00 a.m. to find Trail Works members Paul Gorski and Barb DeRoo. You can always count on Barb for a schedule hike, ski, bike or clean-up. She will drive through a snow storm to make a Trail Works event. A few minutes later “Jolly Roger” shows up. You could hear him from a ½ mile away with his bad muffler. We sat under the shelter as the rain pounded down trying to decide whether to cancel or proceed. We decided to hike and bring along our nippers if anything needed to be cut along the path. While we were waiting under the shelter I was explaining to the group how bad a problem the invasive species have become. When I think of invasive in the past I have heard it associated with purple loosestrife, water chestnut and garlic mustard. It wasn’t until working on the Forever Wild for Everyone Trail at the Lyons Community Center that I was made aware of some other invasive species that are out of control. I would like to thank Andy Buss with Applied Ecologic Service for bringing this to my attention. Now everywhere I go I see how multi-flora Rose, honeysuckle, Buckthorn have taken over.

Trail Works members clearing Lock 65

After a few minutes we’re on our way. As we walked down the towpath west towards Lock 65 we were surrounded by honeysuckle and multi-flora rose on both sides of the trail. We found the trail passable so we kept hiking on, taking out an occasional invasive. If we were going to conquer these invasive species we would need an army of volunteers. Today with four of us we were outnumbered. It was a day to choose our battles and the battle we chose to fight today was Clinton Ditch Lock 65 and the over look into Lock 65. As I had expected the lock was full of invasive species. When we got there you could hardly see the lock it was so over grown with multi-flora rose and honeysuckle.

Looking back now perhaps we could be called the “Special Forces” of trail clearing because those invasive were now in trouble. We hacked and cut our way for the next two hours in the pelting rain. When we got done we had piles and piles of invasive species and the battle had been won. Our victory today was bringing history alive and we did. You can now see Clinton Ditch Lock 65 from Rt. 31 and from the overlook. What makes this lock so special is that it is one of only seven locks out of 86 that is still left from the 1820’s. Perhaps this small victory will finally bring attention to this lost history and lead to a future enshrinement. Maybe someday this can be a site of a restored Clinton’s Ditch Lock. Perhaps some day will be able to come back and see natives growing along the towpath just the way it was in 1820, before the invasive species arrived from Europe and other counties. Looking back I suppose one could blame the canal for the spread of these invasive species along the superhighway of it’s time.

Clinton Ditch Lock 65 

After we parted ways, all soaked, I drove over to see my Amish friend James Wegard in Clyde. We started talking about the invasive problem as I looked out to the edge of his land where rows and rows of multi-flora roses were growing. James turned to me and said “I may have a solution for the problem” as he grabbed his long red beard. He said, “My friend who has goats said they eat them all up.” Now all we need is a goat herder to walk down the towpath path, any volunteers?


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