The rehabilitation project of the Cascadilla Gorge Trail entered its latest phase on Aug. 31 as crews began work on the upper half of the gorge trail, which stretches from College Avenue to Stewart Avenue.The first phase of the project was completed last year when the lower half was reopened from Linn Avenue to an impassable stone staircase under Stewart Avenue bridge. Now, in the second phase, this weather-worn staircase will be rebuilt. “What we’re trying to do is really a reconstruction of the entire gorge trail so it’s safe for all the visitors who enjoy the iconic landscape,” said Todd Bittner, Cornell Plantations director of natural areas.The total cost of the two-part project is expected to be $1.6 million, according to Bittner. The stone staircase is currently in an area where drainage water from above the gorge pours onto it. As a result, the stairs have suffered from constant erosion. This is especially true during the winter when the staircase can be covered by up to ten feet of ice, Bittner said.To prevent erosion, the staircase will be completely rebuilt farther away from the gorge wall. “As a naturalist, it wasn’t my first choice,” Bittner said. He added, however, that the area where the new staircase will be built — directly next to the staircase’s current location — is optimal because it remains dry several months of the year.“It won’t be taking away any habitat,” he said.When it’s completed, Bittner said the new staircase, which will include a viewing area, will be a “nice destination for students and the public.”Cornell Plantations, which is responsible for the upkeep of the gorge trails, aims to reopen the trail later this fall, Bittner said. The feasibility of this goal will depend on the weather, he added. During construction, the Stewart Avenue bridge between Collegetown and West Campus will close intermittently.“It is a really difficult place to do work,” Bittner said.Sackett Footbridge, which spans Beebee Lake and Fall Creek Gorge, was also closed for repairs over the summer.That bridge, a cement arch with a façade of stone, experienced wear over time. Due to failing mortar, its stones could fall off and potentially strike someone below, creating a “life-safety risk,” Bittner said.The façade had been on there for quite some time and the mortar was failing,” Bittner said. The bridge, which is structurally sound, had its façade removed and replaced and is scheduled to reopen Wednesday, he said.
Original Author: Joseph Niczky