Joel Beyer, longtime Erie Canal lockmaster in Lockport, has been named winner of the 11th annual Key to the Locks Award. Beyer will receive the award from Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey in an 11 a.m. ceremony, Saturday, May 7, at the Erie Canal Discovery Center, 24 Church St.
A volunteer selection panel drawn from the Lockport community chose Beyer in recognition of his work in helping the public learn about the Erie Canal and locks at Lockport.
Although his position as lockmaster did not require him to be an educator or promoter of the Lockport locks, Beyer spent years working with school groups, area residents and tourists, helping them understand the history and workings of the canal and locks.
He played an important role in opening a museum at the foot of the locks, put in many hours of his own time on the upkeep and beautification of the public areas, and worked closely with the volunteers who operate the restored Flight of Five.
Beyer began working for the New York State Canal Corp. in 1974 and retired earlier this year. He had served as lockmaster since 1979.
The Key to the Locks Award was established to recognize Niagara County residents who exemplify the community spirit or promote the heritage or preservation of the historic Erie Canal.
The 2015 award honored the late Dianne Koplas, who had developed several Canal-oriented education and tourism programs. Other previous winners include Carol Schmelz, for her work in establishing the Canalway Trail through Pendleton; artist Joe Whalen, for a lifetime of showcasing the canal through his paintings; Jeffrey Degnan, for his work in promoting the Erie Canalway corridor; and Rosemary Bernard, for educational programs at the Royalton Hartland Community Library.
The Key to the Locks ceremony is open to the public. Those attending can enjoy free admission to the Erie Canal Discovery Center and Penney Gallery following the event.