Published April 28. 2013 4:00AM
Norwich - Called Uncas Leap, Indian Leap or Yantic Falls, the natural gorge enhanced by a manmade dam on the Yantic River is already a popular scenic spot for photos and gawking at raging spring waters. But city officials hope to make it much more than that.
Representatives from several city agencies, the Mohegan Tribe and historic preservation advocates have been working together to enhance this popular spot into a more publicized natural resource, historic and heritage site and a tourist attraction connected to downtown along an existing but little known walking trail.
A public forum will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Sidney Frank Ensemble Room at Norwich Free Academy to discuss "the many stories" that make up the history of the Uncas Leap area, said Jason Vincent, vice president of the Norwich Community Development Corp., one of the agencies working on the project.
National Park Service Planner John Monroe will guide the discussion on how the city can capitalize on the history and beauty of the area. Prior to English settlement, the falls area was an important site for the Mohegan Tribe. Later, it became one of the earliest industrial sites in Norwich, powered by the force of the river.
NCDC has applied for one $80,000 state grant from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's Recreational Trails Program to enhance the existing heritage walking trail that connects the falls area to the Howard T. Brown Memorial Park at Norwich Harbor.
The grant would pay for better signs to direct people to the trail - which alternates between a riverbank trail and sidewalk routes. Other signs could provide information about historic events and locations along the way, Vincent said.
NCDC also hopes to apply for a second grant of up to $25,000 from the state Department of Economic and Community Development with a $25,000 local matching share required to fix the roof of the historic stone mill near the falls.
The city took the former Artform Inc. building for back taxes in 2010. A future grant could cover construction costs to restore the building, Vincent said.
NCDC recently approved spending $6,800 to start planning the building restoration.