Friends of the Outlet seeks members, directors

Gwen Chamberlain The Chronicle-Express
The Friends of the Outlet work collaboratively with many other organizations to preserve and protect the natural beauty along the Keuka Outlet. For many years each spring, students from Marcus Whitman Central School help members of Trout Unlimited and the New York State DEC stock the Outlet with trout.

The organization that owns a large swath of historic land connecting the villages of Penn Yan and Dresden and provides free public access to a hiking and biking trail to the public needs help.

The Friends of the Outlet Trail will be electing new directors and officers to the organization’s board at its annual meeting, to be held in late April. A slate of nominees must be presented to the membership via a newsletter at least 30 days prior to the annual meeting.

The board of directors consists of nine directors, with staggered terms of three years, and directors are limited to serving no more than two consecutive terms.

At a board meeting Feb. 6, Board President David Roddy and Director John Rossman submitted their resignations, and the the remaining board members appointed Secretary Peg Thompson as the interim president, vice president and treasurer positions until new board members are elected.

With those resignations, the membership will need to elect five new directors, with terms to be determined. The directors will elect officers.

Roddy had previously said the election would be held at the Feb. 6 meeting, but that was challenged by Steve Knapp and Leona Jensen, members of the Friends who referred to the organization’s by-laws for procedures to elect new board members.

Roddy said previous elections had been held in February simply to keep the organization “up and running.” He said over the past few years it has been unusual to get more than seven of the nine board members to attend one of the quarterly meetings, and much of the work of the organization has fallen on the shoulders of three people. Looking out at the 20 or so people who attended the meeting, Roddy said, “It’s wonderful to see so many people interested.”

Roddy and the board members reviewed the organization’s fiscal status and the work that’s been accomplished over the past few years.

The Friends Mission

“The Friends of the Outlet Inc. is a non-profit organization working with the community to preserve, protect and develop our properties along Keuka Outlet Creek to provide an area for natural, physical, outdoor and historic oriented recreation and education, while serving as responsible stewards for the natural resources of our organization.”

The organization owns the trail and adjoining properties where a railroad system was operated by the Fall Brook Railroad company after a canal system between Keuka and Seneca Lakes failed to be profitable.

In 1972, Hurricane Agnes destroyed much of the tracks, and the idea of developing the corridor into a trail took hold. Initially owned by the Yates County Legislature, the trail was sold to the Friends of the Outlet in 1995, after the Friends purchased several parcels in the gorge from New York State Electric & Gas. Since then, the Friends have acquired several adjoining properties, including 43 acres in the Hopeton Access area and the entire Cascade Mills complex, where a small Visitor Center was established. The eastern end of the trail terminates at Dresden, about a mile from the shore of Seneca Lake.

The majority of the Outlet Park is coincident with the Crooked Lake Canal Historic District, which is listed on the New York and federal registers of historic places. The Yates County Legislature also designated the gorge area as the Keuka Lake Outlet Preservation Area, in recognition of its natural and historic importance and need for special protection.

Saying they were stepping down for personal reasons, Roddy and Rossman both thanked the other board members for their support and help. Rossman, who had been liaison with local law enforcement and emergency services organizations, read from a lengthy list of agencies, groups, businesses, and individuals that he wanted to thank.

To learn more about the Friends of the Outlet Trail Inc., including how to join, visit the organization’s website at www.keukaoutlettrail.com.