Montezuma Heritage Park

Town of Montezuma
Town of Montezuma, Cayuga County, New York 2015

The Town of Montezuma is in the process of developing the Montezuma Heritage Park, which will include approximately 168 acres of land in Cayuga County, New York.  Since the 1960s, there has been an ongoing local effort to develop a heritage park between the hamlet of Montezuma and Seneca River to the west, focused on archaeological remains of the circa 1820s Erie Canal (i.e., “Clinton’s Ditch”), circa 1850s Enlarged Erie Canal (including the extant portions of the Richmond Aqueduct), and associated archeological features and sites.  Several of these features are included in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)-listed Seneca Rivers Crossing Canals Historic District and New York State Barge Canal Historic District.  The heritage park also currently includes walking trails, a parking area, and interpretive signage that are maintained by the Town of Montezuma.

In 2010, the Town pursued and successfully won a New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) Grant to develop a conceptual park design for the proposed heritage park. The resulting Park Plan (2014) was prepared on behalf of the Town by EDR and included conceptual design of proposed improvements for trails and amenities within the park and within the hamlet of Montezuma, and was prepared in consultation with and was reviewed by NYSOPRHP staff.

EDR prepared a Phase 1A archaeological site inventory & sensitivity assessment for the Montezuma Heritage Park to evaluate the potential for significant archaeological resources within the park.  In addition to the existing Seneca Rivers Crossing Canals Historic District, numerous extant archaeological features were documented, representing a unique collection of thematically and functionally related historic-period archaeological sites associated with the Erie, Enlarged Erie, and Cayuga-Seneca Canals.  Due to the close proximity of recorded Native American archaeological sites, the presence of the Erie Canal (both the original and enlarged canals) and associated features, and the potential for nineteenth-century residential and agricultural features within the park, EDR recommended future construction and other ground disturbing activities should be carefully planned to avoid unnecessary disturbance of these resources.