Keuka Outlet Trail
Very scenic, but areas of litter and abandoned buildings with graffiti are problems - along with little funding
Publisher's Note: The Keuka Outlet Trail is one of the important landmarks of Yates County history and also a tourism asset that provides very scenic views along a stream that turns into a cascading waterfall. Unfortunately, there are also abandoned buildings for the trail’s visitor center along with graffiti and litter that mar the path. The Observer assigned two photographers and a reporter to walk the trail and report their findings.
KEUKA OUTLET—Have you walked or biked the Keuka Outlet Trail recently? The entire trail?
Each year, over 7,000 people experience the Keuka Outlet Trail in Yates County. The path covers seven miles between Penn Yan on Keuka Lake and Dresden on Seneca Lake.
The trip will give you a peaceful scenic adventure with a classic upstate New York outlet stream and beautiful waterfalls.
Despite the many local groups that help maintain the trail every year, trash, litter, and old tires can usually be found along the outlet at various locations.
The village of Penn Yan owns and operates 1.3 miles of the trail between the baseball fields off State Route 54A and east to Cherry Street. This is also the only paved portion of the trail. The Friends of the Outlet, a non-profit group, maintain the remaining 5.7 mile portion, east from Cherry Street and all the way to the Dresden end.
The trail follows what was originally a canal towpath and later a railroad. From the 1790s to the early 20th Century mills were built along the outlet using the water as a power source. The Crooked Lake Canal operated between the two villages from 1833 to 1877, which included 27 locks. The towpath for the canal later became the path for the Fall Brook Railroad. The rails existed from 1884 to 1974, when Hurricane Agnes damaged the track so much it was removed. According to the Friends’ website, the Yates County Legislature sold a majority of the land to the group in 1995 to establish the path.
The trail is open throughout the year for walking, cycling, horse riding, and even snowmobiles when there is enough snow. The Observer initially contacted Dave Roddy, Friends of the Outlet board president, to get his comments about the trail. Roddy said he would be unavailable for comments until August. He suggested speaking with board secretary Gini Albertalli.
Albertalli said there is a small group of volunteers, including the board, who do maintenance for the 5.7 miles owned by the group. The board is made up of Dave and Mary Roddy, Albertalli, John Hunter, John Rossman, and Joan Strong. Albertalli said that all board members either reside permanently or seasonally in Yates County.
“We’re dependent on people to notify us (about problems). It’s been an ongoing problem since the trail started,” said Albertalli, adding “we do have a problem with graffiti and vandalism. We work closely with the sheriff. It’s very difficult to catch people because they tend to be in isolated spots.”
Another problem the outlet is facing comes from creekside bank erosion. The receding areas (caused in some areas by large tree roots) has created what the Friends of the Trail define as “compromised areas.” The group obtained a grant to fix these areas, but some unsafe sections still exist. A 10 foot drop immediately borders the trail’s edge east of Fox’s Mill Road. The edge is marked only with plastic caution tape.
Albertalli said the group’s annual budget of approximately $7,000 comes primarily from membership dues. Of that, she said half goes to insurance and the rest is mostly for maintenance.
However, she explained their donations over the last three years went towards covering their portion of a matching grant for trail improvements. The grant was for bank stabilization and the Friends needed to provide $135,000 in order to obtain an additional $190,000 in state transportation funds.
One of the group’s goals is to turn the visitor’s center, which currently is in a group of five abandoned buildings located two miles west of Dresden near Ridge Road, into a better location. Albertalli said the group doesn’t have the resources to renovate the visitor’s center area. She explained, “we would really need a community based movement in Yates County.” At the present, Albertalli added the center is rarely open, only if a board member happens to be there.
The buildings at the visitor’s center and Cascade Falls location are owned by the Friends. This includes structures between both the trail and stream marked for people to keep away. However, they still have graffiti inside and out.
Other maintenance issues include mowing. Last week, grass on the trail half of a mile from the Dresden end, was more than a foot tall. In two other sections nearby, tree branches hung low over the path.
The Penn Yan portion of the trail has seen several improvements recently. Last year the village provided new landscaping for the banks of the trail under the Liberty Street bridge. In May of 2012 village volunteers worked with Miss Penn Yan to paint and improve the Lake Street Park along the trail.
Recreation Director Dan Doyle also attributed funding as an issue for keeping up maintenance on the village’s portion. Doyle said each year he has about $1,000 budgeted to maintain Penn Yan’s 1.3 mile section.
The village has also recently received a $30,000 state grant to repair portions of the path made uneven by tree roots. The work must be completed in August.
Doyle added his department responds to issues brought to their attention. He added many groups do volunteer throughout the year. The list of groups already helping out is impressive: Yates County Chamber of Commerce, Keuka College, Penn Yan teachers and students, Izaak Walton League, Finger Lakes Health, and the Lions Club to mention a few.
Like the Friends of the Outlet, Doyle said the village receives no funding from the county for maintenance. He explained an increase in funding, from any source, would help them keep the trail cleaner.
To address the trail problems overall, Albertalli said the group needs more members and volunteers.
Share your views regarding the Keuka Outlet Trail by sending The Observer a letter-to-the-editor at firstname.lastname@example.org or a message on Twitter with #keukaot. A Facebook page has also been created by Penn Yan resident Steve Knapp to post photos at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/623929924284276/.
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