As early as Spring 2002, residents and visitors will have better access to Ithaca’s renowned waterfront. According to early proposals, the Cayuga Waterfront Trail Initiative (CWTI), a collaborative project between the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce and the City of Ithaca, will provide six miles of 10-ft.-wide paved trail, suitable for walking, running, biking and in-line skating.
The handicap- and stroller-accessible trail will be constructed in four parts, beginning with a two-mile loop trail around Cass Park, on the western side of the City of Ithaca. According to Jean McPheeters, president of Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, this first section of the trail should be completed by the spring or late summer of next year.
While the trail will function primarily for recreational use, it will also benefit local businesses and residents, who commute to and shop in the downtown area.
“Anything that improves landscape and public amenities, especially encouraging people to get on their feet, is good for downtown business. We are a very pedestrian downtown,” said Gary Ferguson, director of the Ithaca Downtown Partnership.
Commercial industry and development on Inlet Island should also benefit tremendously as later stages of the CWTI will link the Cass Park trail to a promenade on the island, which is now primarily accessible by road. The proposed promenade is associated with CWTI.
“The trail would affect people [investing in Inlet Island] only positively,” said Susan Vance, owner of the Treasure Chest Antique Store, as well as the Peregrine House, a bed and breakfast inn located in Collegetown.
According to Vance, Inlet Island has “always [been] underdeveloped, never considered a viable place to do business and only recognized recently.”
“Because of 25-year-old debate between city and state over where to build bridges,” Vance said, “many developers feared building on Inlet Island, because there was always the possibility that the land would be usurped by governmental right to imminent domain. We foresee it as any waterfront community, like Key West or Baltimore, bringing in an upscale community with lots of money being spent.”
Additionally, many in the community see added benefits for residents who would use the trails for transportation purposes.
“Providing more opportunity to walk and ride bicycles is always a good thing and should be a priority. But it has long been a neglected priority to provide practical cross-town bikeways for commuting and grocery shopping,” said Paul Glover, director of the Bicycle Planning Commission and a local activist.
“Bike lanes in general are of economic and environmental benefits, reducing traffic congestion [and] reducing loss from local economy of money used to buy, fuel and repair cars,” Glover said.
Funding will come in part from the Park Foundation and grants submitted for state and federal funds, according to McPheeters. Additional financial support has come from community businesses. One example of such programs is a bake sale run by Maxie’s Supper Club. Customers purchase a gift certificate, whose proceeds go to CWTI, and then the certificate can be redeemed for a free dessert. According to McPheeters, the program has already raised about $900.
The “Stepping Stones” campaign also attempts to raise $200,000 from the community. In this program, individual stones are being sold currently to collect funds, and will be placed along the trail.
Rick Manning, coordinator of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail Initiative conceived the idea for the trails several years ago.
“He has his own landscaping company and has helped plan trails in other cities,” said McPheeters.
Manning approached the Chamber of Commerce about two years ago with his proposal for the trail.
Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce quickly became involved with the planning of the project as the trail initiative corresponded with its main objectives, according to McPheeters.
“The mission of the [Tompkins County] Chamber of Commerce is to improve quality of life in community in addition to being responsible for running the Visitor’s Bureau,” McPheeters said.
Ultimately, the Cass Park portion of the trail will connect to the proposed promenade, which will be linked to the western edge of Inlet Island, meant to encourage business activity. The third phase will then link Inlet Island with the Ithaca Farmer’s Market.
Finally, the fourth phase will extend the trail to Stewart Park and the Tompkins County Visitors’ Center. Eventually, the initial Cass Park trail will link to the northernmost point of Allan H. Treman State Marine Park and the Black Diamond Trail, still in the conceptual stages but aimed for completion in 2003 or 2004.
For more information on the proposed project or to purchase a stepping stone, visit www.cayugawaterfronttrail.com or www.tompkinschamber.org.
Archived article by Laura Rowntree