Friends of Fort Ontario will host a First Day Hike around the Fort Ontario National Register District on Friday, Jan. 1, beginning at 10 a.m. The event is part of a nationwide initiative to encourage all to begin the New Year by rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors. Historic Site Manager Paul Lear will lead the 2.5-mile family and dog-friendly hike which will proceed at a moderate pace. The free public hike will begin inside the old stone fortification.
A highlight will be a lap in the footsteps of history around the fort’s historic cinder track where 1936 Berlin Olympics half-mile Gold medalist John Woodruff ran while serving in the all African-American 369th Anti-Aircraft-Artillery Regiment (“Harlem Hellfighters”). During Woodruff’s service at Fort Ontario, fellow 1936 Berlin Olympics gold medalist Jesse Owens visited and ran with him on the track.
“The 1940-41 conversion and training of the 369th from an infantry regiment to a more technologically sophisticated anti-aircraft artillery regiment at Fort Ontario is considered a milestone in the Civil Rights movement,” said Lear. “The change marked the beginning of the end of limiting African-American troops to unskilled labor roles and racial segregation of the U.S. Army.”
Hikers, including well-mannered dogs on leashes, are advised to dress appropriately for conditions more “invigorating” than inland locations. Fort Ontario State Historic Site is located at the north end of East Fourth Street in the City of Oswego. For more information on Fort Ontario, contact Paul Lear at [email protected] or visit www.fortontario.com.