Flight locks restoration is more than a job for Edmister, though. He can trace his fascination with locking, and local history, to his first cruise through the Lockport locks when he was 8 or 9 years old. On his uncle’s watercraft as it approached E-34, “I thought, how do you get a boat uphill? It blew my mind,” he said.
Twenty-five years later, Edmister knows a lot more about “Clinton’s Ditch,” including: The Erie Canal connects the Hudson River and the Great Lakes, and its operation, beginning in 1825, had a transformative effect on the nation. It wouldn’t have been possible had Nathan Roberts, a self-taught engineer, not figured out how to float boats over a 60-foot elevation change created by the Niagara Escarpment in Lockport. Canal building was accomplished by ingenuity, willpower and the hard labor of immigrants, thousands of whom died helping forge the path.
Standing on Canal Street overlooking the Flight remnants, Edmister tries to imagine the uncut escarpment and says restoration is a fitting tribute to those visionaries and laborers.
”It is truly astonishing to think of somebody standing up here 150 years ago and dreaming this up. It was an incredible undertaking,” he said. “I’m not necessarily a pioneer — somebody else already thought of it — but certainly I feel a responsibility to honor their work. Our nation grew tremendously because of this. Restoring it shows the world how it was; it’s teaching another generation. I think that’s important.”
Restoration work will go into full swing after Nov. 15, when the canal is closed for the year. As soon as it’s dewatered, Bordner said, crews will be assigned to remove sediment from the dormant lock chambers, and clean, repair and/or replace stone masonry. Work will be ongoing at the site through early July.