High Falls gorge crumbling
Posted at: 08/29/2012 5:38 PM
| Updated at: 08/29/2012 6:30 PM
By: Ray Levato | WHEC.com
Mother Nature is playing a cruel trick on the City of Rochester. Part of an historic old factory building at High Falls saved 12 years ago may have to be torn down because the rock gorge underneath is crumbling.
If you’ve ever been on the pedestrian bridge over the gorge, you’ve seen the buildings, just west of the falls. They were once the heart of early manufacturing in Rochester when water powered the wheels of industry in Rochester.
Rochester City Engineer Jim McIntosh met with News10NBC at what was once the city festival site overlooking the gorge and the old stone building. The upper level plaza has been fenced off for safety reasons. The City of Rochester ordered the offices in the lower floors of the building to be evacuated last November. The irony is that the city spent a considerable amount of money in the late 1990’s to save the lower floors of the stone building and its waterwheel.
McIntosh said, “We put the pins in that you see from the other side and the hope was that was going to be enough. Underneath those supports, the rock was wearing away and there was a lot more infiltration of water than was originally thought and it was wearing the soft shale under there away quicker than anyone had anticipated.”
Bob Mahoney works at High Falls and came over to see the site Wednesday.
Mahoney said, “Well, years ago I never came here because there wasn't any attraction for anybody to come here. But once they turned it into the High Falls neighborhood, I think it's one of the best assets we've got.”
The city plans to tear down part of the wall on a rock ledge that sticks out over the gorge. That's the unstable rock.
McIntosh said, “If we can find sufficient resources, we turn this into a ruins site. We'd pull back the walls similar to what you see over at the Triphammer site across the way. This wall would not be here, at least not all of it. We'd go back maybe to about where that door is. Then you'd kind of have a ruins site where some of the walls would be left. People could probably walk down there. It would open up some of the views to the gorge and the falls.”
That would suit Mahoney just fine.
Mahoney said, “I think they need to preserve whatever they can. I think it's important. It's High Falls. It's a big part of the city.”
But what won't be preserved is the iconic smokestack of the old Beebe electric power plant first built in 1925. The words High Falls are painted on top. RG&E said it will tear the 250-foot tall smoke stack down saying deterioration at the top has made it a safety risk.
RG&E is also in the early stages of developing a long-range plan for decommissioning Beebee station. The big plant stopped producing electricity in 1999. RG&E says it put money away in reserve for remediating the site of environmental concerns. But so far, the city has no plans to someday make the site open to the public.