Every year the American Planning Association recognizes public spaces in the U.S. that make their community more accessible and inviting. This year, the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook (MVGO) in Amsterdam, NY was named one of them.
Serving as a “Park on the River”, the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook (MVGO) was built to reconnect the north and south sides of historic Amsterdam, NY, a city that was formed and prospered because of its use of its waters. Located along both sides of the Mohawk River and Erie Canal in Upstate New York, the City of Amsterdam, New York was formed where the Chuctanunda Creek flows into the Mohawk River. Upon the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, the area’s mill industry boomed as the transportation of milled products such as brooms, buttons, knitwear, iron goods, and most notably, carpets became possible from New York City to the entire Great Lakes region and Port Jackson, which served as a port for Erie Canal; to the north sits Riverlink Park, a former brownfield site that now serves as a prime community gathering spot for weekly summer concerts and other events. The $16.5-million, 500-ft overlook is a tri-curved continuous structure comprising steel plate girders supported on drilled shafts. Rock, stone and wood patterns were used as the primary materials for creating art elements that reflect the history of the area and include references to Native Americans, settlers and immigrants.
Since its grand opening in 2016, the MVGO has already become a center of community activity. From being part of an individual’s daily walking route to the increased interest in such organized group activities as kayaking and other exercises that use the bridge as a meeting point or destination, it has become a part of the City of Amsterdam’s daily life. In the past year, it has become a location for special events such as fireworks, concerts, weddings, reunions, festivals, fundraisers and trick or treating.
The former Chalmers Knitting Mill adjacent to the south landing was once deemed too contaminated to redevelop. Both sites have been remediated and are now very important pieces of the City’s waterfront revitalization.The MVGO does more than reconnect a City, it reclaims its waterfront from a legacy of environmental contamination. More than 150 years ago, the site of Riverlink Park on the north shore once housed a coal gasification plant.
A vision driven by US Congressman Paul Tonko, who championed the cause for the bridge since the idea’s inception, was for the future MVGO to serve as a metaphorical bridge that celebrates the cultural diversity between the City of Amsterdam’s past, present and it’s future. The historic significance of the site became apparent during the pre-construction archeological investigation on the north landing, which identified numerous historic artifacts from previous human inhabitants, some dating back thousands of years. This discovery is now memorialized on a plaque at the north landing of the bridge. The MVGO also contains multiple pieces of educational interest for its visitors. Recently, an artistic piece, “The Wheel of Life”, was completed on the bridge as an homage to the world-class craftsmanship that local mills generated during their time. The beauty of the native flowering plants and trees on the bridge, which number in the hundreds, allow one to enjoy the bridge for its sights and smells. The entire length of the bridge provides information on the history and importance of the region and the waterway through detailed decorative plaques.
The MVGO has continued to be an awe-inspiring destination for the City of Amsterdam since it’s debut and we hope you get a chance to experience it yourself.