Cascade Mill buildings to be demolished this summer

Staff reports
The Chronicle-Express
Condemned and beyond repair, the buildings of the old Cascade Mill on the Keuka Outlet are to be razed this summer and the site enhanced for its natural beauty.

Keuka Outlet Trail continues to enhance natural setting

PENN YAN — The Cascade Mill Falls of the Keuka Outlet Trail will continue its transformation into an improved area for trail users when the old buildings adjacent and downstream from the picturesque falls will be demolished, scheduled between early July and late August 2021. The deterioration of the old buildings has advanced, and the structures have been deemed unsightly for trail users and beyond repair.

Over the past several years, different options were explored to preserve or rehabilitate the century-old buildings, including deploying the talent and expertise of Design Connect Cornell. In 2016, a group of graduate students carefully studied the site, researched and documented the history of the mill, and developed and presented a series of concepts for preservation and adaptive re-use of the facility. Engineers, however, concluded that the buildings were beyond repair. It was then determined that it would be best if the old mill structures were demolished for public safety and the continued enhancements of the multi-use trail and its natural setting.

Condemned and beyond repair, the buildings of the old Cascade Mill on the Keuka Outlet are to be razed this summer and the site enhanced for its natural beauty.

Friends of the Outlet Inc. has been working with Arcadis, an international engineering firm that specializes in sustainable design. Procter and Gamble, which acquired the J.T. Baker Company in 1985, is funding the demolition of the old structures at Cascade Falls. As part of this process, the buildings have been secured with fencing and condemned. Reviews were completed by Arcadis, including an environmental impact and a historic preservation report. The reports were submitted to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Historic Preservation Office for approval to move forward with the project.

The scope of the project will minimally impact ongoing trail usage, with only a slight detour using existing trail infrastructure to safely navigate around the buildings during the demolition work, scheduled between early July and late August.

Building #1 (furthest downstream) will be demolished down to the slab, which will remain. The rubble will be repurposed as fill in the basement of Building #2 (closest to the waterfall). The majority of Building #2 will be used as fill as well, and the footprint of Building #2 will be covered with topsoil and planted with grass.

Condemned and beyond repair, the buildings of the old Cascade Mill on the Keuka Outlet are to be razed this summer and the site enhanced for its natural beauty.

The history of Cascade Falls and the surrounding area is well documented, including in A Scrapbook of Cascade Mills on the Keuka Outlet Trail, written by Leona Jensen in 2007 and available at the Penn Yan Library. In the 1800s, the falls powered a gristmill and a series of paper mills. In 1900, Edward R. Taylor purchased Cascade Mill to power the production of carbon bisulfide, an organic chemical compound used as a pesticide, solvent in arts, in shoemaker’s glue, and for other industrial purposes for the Taylor Chemical Co. When it closed in 1966 under the ownership of the J.T. Baker Company, Cascade Mill was the last working mill in the Keuka Outlet valley.

The next chapter in the history of Cascade Falls will be a return to its natural glory offering great views of the 40-foot falls, space for picnics, photos ops, fishing, and other recreation activities. This transformation will be a substantial contribution to the growing public interest of the Keuka Outlet Trail, offering more usable green space for outdoor community events with greater access to the new pavilion that offers electricity and nearby public parking.

As one of the very first "rail trails," the Keuka Outlet Trail is open year-round, dawn to dusk, and is free for hiking and other forms of foot travel, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, bicycling, horseback riding, and dog-walking. Snowmobiling is allowed during the winter months on designated sections of the trail, and fishing is very popular year-round.

The trail follows what the Native Americans called the Minneseta creek where the waters of Keuka Lake flow into Seneca Lake, traveling approximately eight miles and dropping 270 feet in altitude from Penn Yan on the west end, to Dresden on the east. In 1984, a group of local citizens formed Friends of the Outlet Inc. as a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserve, protect, and develop properties along the Keuka Outlet as an area for outdoor recreation and education, and to serve as responsible stewards for the region’s natural resources.

For further information about the Friends of the Outlet, including upcoming events along the trail:

• Visit https://www.keukaoutlettrail.org/about

• Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/keukaoutlettrail/

• or contact Phillip Rahr, President of Friends of the Outlet Inc., by emailing prahr@keukaoutlettrail.org.