WATSONTOWN - A new project will honor both the rich history of the canal boat in the area and a man who dedicated himself to preserving them.
When Ryn Agnew's husband, Bob Kientz, passed away, the Pennsylvania Canal Society, of which he served as president for many years, wanted to provide a memorial sign in thanks for his dedication.
Instead, with contributions of different groups, the Watsontown Canal Boat Pavilion will be created for him near Canal Street, next to the borough parking lot. It is described as a 13- by 52-feet canal boat themed pavilion. A garden next to it will measure 13 by 40 feet.
From left to right, Maria Culp, Ryn Agnew, and Michael “Captain Mick” McWilliams present a check to aid construction of a pavilion celebrating the history of canals.
Agnew, of Allenwood, posed with a shovel at the groundbreaking ceremony and helped accept a check for $5,000 from the Central Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce.
"We're extremely grateful for the Chamber of Commerce," she said.
The project will cost $15,000, but with the donation from the Chamber of Commerce, the project has raised $12,000 so far.
Michael "Captain Mick" McWilliams, of Northumberland, costumed himself in canal captaining gear for the event.
"I'm a personal friend of Bob's," McWilliams said. "That's why I dressed like this today."
McWilliams said the pavilion would have been something that Kientz would have appreciated.
The design for the pavilion was crafted by Ken Harmon to reflect a post-1851 canal.
"It's a lifesize footprint," Agnew said.
In April 2010, the project began when the Pennsylvania Canal Society pledged $1,000 in cash and $1,000 match for private money raised.
When construction for the pavilion begins in spring 2012, all of the work will be done by volunteer labor, with mostly skilled volunteers. It will be built off of the flood plains.
Agnew said that once the pavilion is finished, the borough will accept ownership of it.
The Warrior Run Community Corp. Pathways Committee took stewardship of the project, making the donations tax deductible.
The additional $3,000 needed will offset costs to build the garden, picnic tables and signs.
Back in the times of canals, Agnew said they served as "Walmarts," bringing supplies to people who could not travel.
"It could bring people back and forth easily," she said. "They could travel is slow luxury."
The project is important to Agnew because her husband was interested in educating people about the canal history.
According to the Pennsylvania Canal Society website, throughout the state, there were 1,356 miles of canals linking different cities, villages, factories, mines and farms. Pennsylvania had more miles of canals than any other state.
Agnew said an inquiring person who walked around the town could learn more about the area than by reading about it in books.
"We're trying to bring the pride of the riverside to everyone," Agnew said. "We'll make it a more attractive recreation, a bigger part of the region."
To learn more information or make a donation, visit wrccweb.com.