March 2, 2010

Cascadilla Gorge Trail To Open Again

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A restoration project has begun that will refurbish and ultimately reopen the Cornell Plantations’ Cascadilla Gorge Trail. According to the University’s Facilities Services website, the total budget for the project will range between $250,000 and $500,000. The restoration is included within the trustee-approved capital budget as a General Purpose Maintenance and Infrastructure Project.

The trail has been continually closed and reopened in recent years. In 2008, the trail was closed when a portion of the trail between the Treman Triangle –– an open green space at Court Street and University Avenue –– and the College Avenue Bridge partially collapsed and was deemed too dangerous for visitors, according to the Cornell Chronicle. The trail was shut down again in 2009 when pathways and railings between Linn Street and College Avenue were damaged from storms, according to

“The trail is really not a safe location,” Sarah Schoenberg ’11, president of Friends of Gorges, said. “Plantation workers had to wear hard hats when looking over the area. But the plantation workers are working really hard to get funding.”

Gibbs said that the trail has been plagued by problems since the City of Ithaca first opened it in 1878. According to Gibbs, the issues stem from the constant erosion of the gorges, the water flow from the creek that has consistenly washed unwanted and dangerous material onto the paths and the seasonal “freeze-thaw” cycle. Due to these factors, the University has routinely needed to maintain the trail.

This year’s venture, however, will be more in the order of restoration than a maintenance project. According to Natural Areas Director Todd Bittner, this change is due to the large scope of work that needs to be done in order to ensure the safety and upkeep of the trail.

“Maintenance implies the status quo, and this project aims to change the status quo and address existing safety issues and ultimately reopen this iconic part of Cornell and Ithaca for all to safely enjoy and use,” Bittner said.

Students have expressed their understanding of the need to close the trail.

“I don’t blame the plantation facilities for closing the trail,” Yash Gharat ’13, a natural resources major, said. “It’s hard to maintain safety with two feet of snow in two days or really heavy rain.”

Since both the maintenance and restoration project of the Cascadilla Gorge Trail are still in the works, a completion date has yet to be set. Officials are hoping, though, that nature’s unpredictability will not hinder their plans.

“Not to be flippant, but nature never stops,” Gibbs said.

Original Author: Elaine Lin