The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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July 7, 2007

Recreation commission reviving canal towpath

Transportation route will be used by bikers, walkers

DANVILLE -- Nearly two centuries after it was originally built, the North Branch Canal towpath will once again become a pathway for travelers along the Susquehanna River.

The Montour Area Recreation Commission (MARC), in partnership with the upcoming Iron Heritage Festival, is organizing a community dig project to clear the original canal towpath of trees, brush and debris.

Once cleared, the towpath will enable folks to walk, run or bike on a path once used as a major transportation portal for timber, bushels of wheat, and barrels of whiskey, among other necessities loaded on canal boats and rafts to descend the river.

The open community project will be held at 8 a.m. on July 14 beginning at the Danville Soccer Park along River Road. The group hopes to attract up to 300 volunteers and clear approximately one-mile of trail, according to Dave Decoteau, director of MARC.

"The goal of this ambitious project is to create a work crew similar to the original canal building crews of the 1800's," Mr. Decoteau said. "Our goal will be more modest than the original canal builders. We will not be digging a 15-foot deep by 40-foot wide channel in the ground using only picks, shovels and mules."

He added, "Instead, we will simply be clearing the original North Branch Canal towpath, so residents and visitors can enjoy our area history and natural beauty."

Mr. Decoteau said the goal is for each volunteer to clear a 10-foot by 10-foot patch of ground.

"This feat is unprecedented and worthy of state, possibly national recognition for our area," Mr. Decoteau said. "The goal of the day is not a true reenactment, but rather an opportunity to live history and contribute to the vibrancy of the community. We are also encouraging period dress."

Interested volunteers will need to bring their own tools, food and beverage, Mr. Decoteau said. The canal dig will be held rain or shine, he added.

Among the already committed volunteers include officials from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, SEDA-Council of Governments, SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority, area county commissioners, chamber of commerce members and municipal leaders.

For more information on the project or to sign up, visit www.montourrec.com or call 271-1055.

Volunteers can also register in person at the Iron Heritage Company Store, 316 Mill St.

P E-mail comments to jnorth@thedanvillenews.com.

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