Reacting to multiple incidents in recent years along Six Mile Creek, the City of Ithaca plans to hire patrol officers to monitor the gorges this summer, according to Julie Conley Holcomb, a city of Ithaca clerk.
While City of Ithaca rangers have patrolled the Six Mile Creek area “for decades” according to Holcomb, officers will soon be specifically assigned to the notable areas that have seen increase in dangerous activities around the gorge in recent years.
“Over the past several years we have seen larger crowds and more dangerous behaviors occurring at the First and Second Dams such as alcohol and drug use, cliff jumping, swimming, campfires, and significant amounts of trash,” Holcomb said. “Last year, we experienced a tragic death as a result of cliff jumping.”
From May to September, four rangers will be located near the First, Second and Third Dams. Their jobs is not only to enforce the law but to also educate people about the rules of the Six Mile Creek Natural Area, according to Holcomb.
“We are hoping to send a strong message that this is not an unsupervised area that people can do whatever they want to in,” Holcomb said. “The natural area is meant for everyone to enjoy responsibly, and we want people and families to feel safe spending time there. Many people coming to the area to cliff jump are not from Ithaca and are not familiar with the hidden, underwater dangers of the gorge.”
Holcomb and her colleagues working on his project want people to enjoy the natural beauty that Ithaca has to offer in a safe and respectful manner. As a part of education efforts, the program will teach those interested about alternative areas to visit, including the three state parks or Cayuga Lake.
During the summer, individuals who visit the Six Mile Creek and are caught will be ticketed by enforcement.
“If people are found to be swimming and/or cliff jumping in the Six Mile Creek area, the fine could be as high as $250,” Holcomb said. “There are also other fines associated with open containers, possession of drugs [and] littering.”
Aside from swimming, the initiative has been implemented in an effort to respond to the heroin crisis infiltrating the City of Ithaca. Numerous tents — filled with hypodermic needles — have been found near the dams, according to The Ithacan.
Holcomb called the initiative a joint effort between herself and the Department of Public Works, Ithaca Police Department, Ithaca Fire Department, and the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office. They also work closely with Cornell’s Gorge Safety Task Force.