Asking the governor to save history
HONESDALE, PA — The Wayne County Commissioners are making another effort, possibly their last, to save a relic of a National Historic Landmark: the Delaware and Hudson Canal.
To that end, the commissioners last week approved a letter requesting the intervention of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in preventing the PA Fish Commission’s scheduled demolition of the 180-odd year-old Hankins Pond Dam in Mount Pleasant Township.
The old stone dam impounded a branch of the Lackawaxen River to provide water for the canal, creating Hankins Pond behind it. The 1,000-foot-long dam, which stands 26 feet at its center, was later used to propagate trout for the Pleasant Mount State Fish Hatchery. The 90-acre pond disappeared when the state first breached the dam in 2013.
Despite that breach, officials deemed the structure to be a high-hazard dam still capable of impounding enough water during a heavy downpour to cause danger to downstream residents, should the remainder of the dam then fail. The demolition, now scheduled for this fall, would remove 75 feet of the structure on either side of the existing small breach outlet.
Proponents of the dam say that since 2013, the existing breach and outflow has successfully weathered several tropical storms, without incident. The commissioners want the state to create and alternate spillway that would not cause demolition of the existing structure. “We’d like them to find a way to get around the dam, rather than just blow a hole through the middle of it,” said Commissioner Brian Smith. “We’d like them to do something less overall destructive.”
Supporting the preservation effort, the county has also circulated petitions to save the dam. An electronic version appears on the county site at tinyurl.com/y7coutkp. More than 375 persons had signed the online petition at press time. The petition site will be open until August 1.
Honesdale, named after canal organizer and former New York City Mayor Phillip Hone, was developed as the western canal terminus. The canal is celebrated extensively at the Wayne County Historical Society and the Lock 31 Canal Park in Hawley. The commissioners have been involved in ongoing dam preservation efforts since 2015, when Mount Pleasant resident and Honesdale businessman Paul Ludick introduced an alternate plan to retain the old dam.
Smith last week said he hoped the governor would intervene. “Hopefully, I won’t have lie down on the top of the dam to save it… I just might,” Smith said.