Riverwalk dedicates interpretive panel

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MANCHESTER — Three hundred years ago, if you were walking along the banks of the Battenkill, you would be passing near a Dutch settlement. Before the Dutch, Native Americans fished these waters, which they called "Ondawa." Recently, community members gathered at the Factory Point Town Green for the unveiling of the Riverwalk Interpretive Panel marking this important historical area. Titled "The Battenkill: The Early Years," it was created by the Manchester Riverwalk Association.

The panel lays out the progression from the 1820s, when residents began to harness the river's power to run new mills that were being built, to the early 1900s—when the area was known as Factory Point.

The river was dammed, and canals, bridges and walkways were constructed. Tanneries, saw and grist mills and other businesses were established along its banks.

Dick Smith, of the Riverwalk Committee, and Ivan Beattie, chair of the Manchester Select Board, shared their memories of the Factory Point area and discussed all of the hard work that has gone into creating this special place. Central to all of this, is the Battenkill, designated as an Outstanding Resource Water by the Vermont Waters Resource Board, due to its exceptional natural, recreational, cultural and scenic values.

The Manchester Riverwalk would like to thank the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership for funding the panel, the Town of Manchester for their help in installing it, and the Selectboard for their approval. "Approval of this was easy," Beattie said. "We approved it on your behalf and on the behalf of everyone in Manchester. But we wanted to make sure we got it right and that it was reflective of the history of the area." The West Branch of the Battenkill has always been "one of the town's best kept secrets," said Beattie, but the issue has been access to it. Over the years, different people have worked to create access, and recently the Manchester Riverwalk Association has taken the lead in continuing the job. "I'd like to congratulate the Riverwalk committee for everything you've done," said Beattie.

The Riverwalk Committee would like to invite the community to come visit the new panel at the Factory Point Town Green and learn a little bit more about the history of this area, and the beautiful river we call the Battenkill.

Manchester Riverwalk is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build, beautify, and maintain public pathways along the river and enhance public access to this remarkable resource. Visit manchesterriverwalk.org for more information.

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