Niagara Gazette — For a long time, restoring the Flight of Five locks was just a vision for some on the Lockport Locks Heritage District Committee. For a few, it's been a 10-year journey.
On Wednesday, that vision became something people could see and touch. And that something is two solid white oak gates that weigh about 9,500 pounds each.
The committee, local leaders and community members were given the chance Wednesday to see the two lock gates that will be installed this summer in locks 69 and 70 on the Erie Canal. Those locks are the first two to be restored in the historic Flight of Five restoration project.
Replicas of what was installed in the 19th century, the lock gates are being worked on at Hohl Industrial Services of Tonawanda. Then sometime within the next two weeks, they will be transported to Lockport for installation.
And those present Wednesday were glad to see the massive, wooden gates.
"This historic preservation project means a lot to us and to see the restoration of these locks to its original look is really thrilling to us," said Lockport Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey
After being replaced a century ago by the current, modern locks of E34 and E35, the Flight of Five — the original locks 67 through 71 — became a picturesque remnant that served as a spillway and garbage collector for the modern locks ever since.
The Flight of Five opened in 1864 as part of the Erie Canal's first enlargement.
Now, the first two locks of the Flight will be restored. The goal is to have locks 69 and 70 completed and operational by July 5. Restoring the other three locks — 67, 68 and 71 — will depend on funding, possibly up to $8 million. Locks 69 and 70 restoration is about $2 million.
The two interior locks were chosen because they had the fewest challenges to deal with, said Peter Welsby, project manager. But there was still a steep learning curve.