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Students learning a Lock

Students clean up the site of an abandoned Lock as part of a project to design accessibility to the area. Submitted photo.

Students clean up the site of an abandoned Lock as part of a project to design accessibility to the area. Submitted photo.

— Through a few serendipitous happenings, dozens of Shenendehowa High School students wound up at an abandoned lock in the woods along the Old Erie Canal this spring.

They were not lost or wandering, but instead putting their minds to work on a unique problem.

This scene started when Chamber of Southern Saratoga County President, Peter Bardunias had gone to the site of the abandoned Lock 19 from the 1840s with Eric Hamilton of the Mohawk Towpath Byway to have a look at it. The area is at the end of Ferry Drive at the edge of the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve.

When they found the old lock hidden in the woods, Bardunias thought improving it would make a nice community project.

“It had a very humble beginning … we also thought it would be kind of nice to clean it up,” said Bardunias.

From there, he chatted about the prospects of expanding the clean-up of the site with Jim Wachala a senior project executive with Turner Construction. Soon, they put into place a design competition and opened it up to interested students at the high school.

Eight teams of 10 students each were paired with mentors from Turner Construction and General Electric to build a mini-bridge or platform area from which to observe the historical site.

Students had just six weeks to complete a design befitting the lock’s historical significance and at the same time make it accessible to visitors to the nature preserve. Categories for the design included orientation of the bridge, bridge design, historical presentation and marketing. The winning team will now see its vision implemented.

“We were really surprised to get 80 students. And because it was a multi-faceted project we had a point person in social studies, one in history and one in business. … They were all very efficient with their time,” said Jean Lorch, academic administrator for science students at Shenendehowa High School.

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