SACO – A company that opened a ropes adventure course in Saco two years ago wants to build a zip line that would carry visitors across the city’s popular and picturesque Cascade Falls.
On Jan. 22, the City Council will discuss for the first time Monkey Trunks eXtreme’s proposal to run a zip line across city-owned property and over the roughly 20-foot waterfall.
The area, tucked away just off Cascade Road and Route 1, has been a popular scenic spot for generations.
Kris Gagnon, general manager of Monkey Trunks, said the zip line would be 200 to 300 feet and connect to the course’s series of ropes challenges and platforms. It would span the top part of the falls and wouldn’t block the view for hikers, he said.
“You get to take in everything around you and what’s flying by you,” Gagnon said of riding a zip line. “That’s why we want to do something with the falls. You’d get to look at the water the way it falls from the brook.”
It would not be the first innovative use of the falls.
The area masqueraded as the Yukon for a silent movie in the 1930s. In the 1950s, a bear in a cage entertained people who hiked through the woods to view the falls.
The waterfall itself is 20 feet high, according to the website northeastwaterfalls.com, which says it is also known as Bridal Fall.
In 2005, the local developer Elliott Chamberlain donated 14 acres surrounding the falls to the city, along with $20,000 to improve the area and build a trail system.
The Cascade Falls property includes a short trail, the Trout Pond Loop, and several smaller paths. The park’s master plan calls for a more developed trail system, platforms and bridges. The city and Saco Bay Trails are working together to raise money for the projects.
Joe Hirsch, the city’s recreation director, said Monkey Trunks officials first approached him last summer with their proposal. After discussing the idea with the city’s Cascade Falls Trails Committee and Saco Bay Trails, the City Council will have to decide whether it supports the proposal.
The council must consider issues including liability, leases and logistics, he said.
“It will expose people who would not normally see the falls and trails to the area,” Hirsch said. “We think (the proposal) has a lot of potential, but it’s a lot to work through.”
Preliminary discussions about the proposal included input from the board of Saco Bay Trails, which recommends that the city develop a “reasonable” annual lease agreement with Monkey Trunks and use that money for the future installation of bridges, platforms and trails at Cascade Falls.
In a letter to city councilors, Elaine Vadenboncoeur, president of Saco Bay Trails, said the board looked at preservation of the area and future recreational uses of the property.
“Some feel this area should not be disturbed, more specifically the area across the falls, while others believe that this would introduce the area to those who would use the proposed zip line and thus bring in additional foot traffic,” she wrote.
City Planner Bob Hamblen said the zip line would be a minor change to the existing site plan for Monkey Trunks.
“If it becomes a hot potato, so to speak, I’d be happy to steer this back to the Planning Board,” Hamblen said.
If it gets City Council approval, the next step for Monkey Trunks will be to hire an arborist to evaluate the health of the trees that would be used and develop a course design, said Gagnon.
Any zip line wires and platforms would be secured to trees in a way that doesn’t cause permanent damage, he said.
Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: