The uppermost cataract of the seven-level Sonoma Falls in Morsston illustrates the beauty to be found throughout the 150-acre property. The falls and other scenic locations will soon be available to the hiking and riding public.
Cider mill at center of new tourist attraction
By Dan Hust
MORSSTON In a hamlet known only by an exit sign off Route 17, Elwin “Woody” Wood and Jerry Turco are planning to build one of Sullivan County’s premier tourist attractions.
Make that “are building” come October 3, the Sonoma Falls Cider Mill and Country Market should be open for business, marking the return of an apple-pressing enterprise to the area.
“We wanted to do something out of the norm,” said Wood, a Roscoe businessman and county legislator.
And something that recalled the kind of family fun he once had at the former North Branch Cider Mill.
Located in the tiny dot on the map called Morsston, the mill and market are only a half-mile from Route 17’s Exit 97, yet the sounds of the falls drown out the noise of speeding traffic.
And what spectacular falls they are no less than seven gorgeous cataracts, cascading down 75 feet of Catskill mountainside, swirling right past the 150-year-old barn that will house both the cider mill and the store.
Indeed, the day after the business partners walked the 150-acre property, they bought it, closing in November of last year.
Wood and Turco, a developer with projects from the Hamptons to Idaho’s Sun Valley, envision a full-featured attraction, with something for every age and interest, employing between 9 and 12 people.
“It was called Sonoma Falls Campground,” Wood recalled. “This is a way to develop it back into a tourism spot.”
The primary attractions will be the cider mill (using equipment from a former mill on Lake Ontario’s shore), market (featuring fruits, vegetables, cheeses, gifts and more) and the falls (which will be accessible at every level via hiking trails on both sides). They will be open Friday-Sunday through approximately December 20 this year.
But with 150 acres, the duo are already working on planting an apple orchard, raising native brook trout in on-site ponds, clearing old logging roads to use as horseback and ATV/snowmobile trails, and restoring the former O&W railroad bed, which serves as the attraction’s entrance.
Long-range goals include returning an old waterwheel to a spot halfway up the falls, which used to and may yet again provide hydroelectricity to the barn.
In another month or so, they hope to have converted the former VFW hall near the Route 17 entrance ramp into a year-round cafe, and by this time next year, their plan is to have several log cabins available for rental along their mile-long frontage on the Little Beaverkill which is indeed open for fishing.
“The agritourism business is up and growing in Sullivan County,” explained Wood, “and we want to capture the beauty of the property.”
The entrepreneurial spirit of Wood and Turco is already locally evident, with both men running Roscoe businesses (Wood’s The Little Store and Turco’s Live Bait Bar and Grill among them) and jointly owning the firm that is building their mill: Twin Rivers Land Development.
That partnership has enabled them to hire their own carpenters, plumbers, electricians and contractors, keeping the development costs close to about a million dollars of private capital no bank loans, no government assistance.
The speed with which they’re proceeding in this final month of construction means cider may not be actually being pressed on opening day, but it will be available at the market, which will sit directly underneath the apple press.
And when it reopens next April, Wood and Turco plan to incorporate visitors’ suggestions.
“Let the people who come here tell us what they want,” Wood explained.
Still, the partners are already very confident they’ve got magic in the making in Morsston. Just look at what’s already there, they point out: mountains rising 300 feet above the meadowed valley, crystal-clear ponds and streams, abundant wildlife, easy highway access, even full cellphone service.
“We’ve got the spot,” said Turco. “It’s real and it’s going and we’re opening.”