The miter gates, an integral part of the lock operation, will not be finished and ready for installation until mid-November. The community celebration that was planned for Oct. 16 has been postponed and will be rescheduled for late April 2005, as to not interfere with the Schuylkill Canal Association's (SCA) June events.
"The gates will be done, and the lock will be finished the week of Thanksgiving. People can visit and certainly come down and see the restored lock and see us figure out how to work the lock," said Betsy Daley, Executive Director of the SCA. "By spring 2005, we'll be expert canallers, and we'll know what to do at the grand opening."
The SCA and Upper Providence Township are disappointed about this unfortunate situation, but this is something beyond their control. The gates are being fabricated by a timber craftsman who lost critical employees due to illness and attrition.
"We are very disappointed that the project was not able to be completed in the time allowed, but the circumstances requiring this delay were totally unavoidable, with both Mother Nature and the timber craftsman," Daley said. "It was very upsetting, but there's nothing we can do about it. The gates are the part that provide the means to move the water."
Historically, this is not so different from the time when the canal was constructed in the early 1800s. An inland navigation system was thought of by William Penn in the late 1600s. It took another century, during which the nation fought for its independence, acquired engineering skills and developed sufficient capital, before a navigation on the Schuylkill could become a serious venture.
Many external influences delayed its progress: lack of funds, lack of materials, and the lack of a competent labor force. Deadly plagues struck many of the workers, including Thomas Oakes, the navigation company's principal engineer and for whom Oakes Reach was named. And Mother Nature had her hand in it. Catastrophic floods would remind the company's stockholders and the river communities that bordered the canal who was really in control.
The restoration of Lock 60, the guard lock to Oakes Reach of the Schuylkill Navigation, will be completed in November 2004, too late in the season to hold an outdoor celebration. However, the SCA wants the whole community to join in this history-making event.
"It's the weather more than anything else," Daley said.
This season has produced many weather worries for the construction. During the effects of tropical storm Ivan, the Schuylkill river and canal met at the Lock 60 picnic grove and in Port Providence. The porta dams breached on July 12 and are scheduled to go back up the week of Oct. 22.
In the spring, the SCA will once again plan a day-long community event. The day will celebrate not only Lock 60's restoration but the entire history of the Schuylkill Navigation. The day will also be an occasion for the SCA to express its gratitude to the community that has supported bringing the Lock 60 area to life.
"We'd rather have something in the spring when people are looking forward to getting back on the river; it's a perfect time," said Daley.
The lock's season will typically run March 1 through Nov. 1.
The Lock 60 Grand Opening Raffle will still be held, but not until the event's rescheduled date in the spring. The SCA advises those who have bought tickets to hold onto them. They will still be good next spring.
The grand prize is a complete kayak package that includes an "Ocean" brand Scrambler XT kayak, paddle, seat rest and life vest (PFD), donated by French Creek Outfitters. The kayak will be on display at the Locktender's Open House beginning Sunday, Oct. 17. A native plant workshop by Yellowsprings Farm and a fall foliage hike guided by Bob Elmer will also be featured at the Oct. 17 open house.
Visitors can stop by to see the kayak and purchase $5 raffle tickets on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and on weekends during scheduled events.
For more information and directions to Lock 60 to see the work in progress, contact the SCA at 610-917-0021 or go to the web at www.schuylkillcanal.com.