WILMINGTON - High Falls Gorge will mark its reopening, following devastating flooding in the spring and fall with a ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday morning.
The celebration is set for 11 a.m. with refreshments to follow.
High Falls Gorge is a natural area featuring four waterfalls along the West Branch of the AuSable River. The park's infrastructure of groomed paths, steel bridges and walkways suffered severe damage from flooding in April and again in August. A 35-foot section of steel walkway as well as many other structures were destroyed.
"We were committed to rebuilding after the spring flood," said Kathryn Reiss, owner and president of High Falls Gorge. "Though we were very saddened by the damage, we decided it was an opportunity to rebuild the park in a way that enhances the experience for visitors."
The owners developed plans to minimize damage to structures in the event of future flooding, but also added the new experience of walking on see-through glass floors over the river. The cost of rebuilding exceeded $200,000, paid for through bank loans with no FEMA assistance, Reiss said.
In August, flood waters exceeded those of the April flood by up to 7 feet. According to Reiss, High Falls Gorge was closed and severely damaged by the flood waters. She said the new walkway was not completely built at the time of the storm but that it withstood the flooding with little to no damage.
Reiss said sections of the walkway that were not redesigned were damaged, however.
"We were so devastated when the park got hit again on the heels of the spring flood that we wondered if it was time to throw in the towel," she said. "But then we had this tremendous outpouring of support from our friends and neighbors. We truly owe them a debt of gratitude for helping us bounce back, yet again."
According to Reiss, High Falls Gorge reopened on Sept. 3, but the walkway renovations were not completed until recently. She added that the facility as a whole is still in great need of further repairs, but the walk is completely open again for the first time since the April floods.