Ithaca is always “gorges,” but this cliche seems to ring especially true for Cornell students during the pandemic.
Amid social distancing rules, social gathering restrictions and other behavioral expectations outlined in Cornell’s behavioral compact, Cornell students have been exploring social activities outside of campus to enjoy socially-distant activities. The warm weather and sunny days have allowed students to channel their social needs safely in the outdoors.
Already-popular Ithaca destinations have seen a dramatic increase in visitors compared to prior years. With many students seizing the pandemic as an opportunity to explore the beauty that Ithaca has to offer, Buttermilk Falls is just one of these attractions that experienced this influx in popularity.
Ithaca’s vineyards have been another popular destination that students are exploring during the pandemic. Like Buttermilk Falls, Six Mile Creek Vineyard has reached maximum capacity three times this season, forcing it to turn visitors away.
“We are getting flooded with people,” said Mark Renodin, the owner of Six Mile Creek Vineyard. “We have definitely seen a lot of Cornell students coming in. It’s been quite a drastic increase.”
Before reopening, the vineyard implemented a reservation system, limited indoor capacity and restricted group sizes to safeguard public health. The vineyard has modified its group maximum to 10 people in order to align with the Ithaca campus’ transition to COVID Code Yellow guidelines. They have also increased their policing presence on the grounds to enforce behavioral expectations.
Although many of these attractions and venues welcome the enthusiasm and interest of the Cornell community, some venues have been completely overwhelmed by the spike in crowds. In response to the arrival of the “college community,” The Ithaca Farmers Market posted a Facebook message Sept. 4 urging patrons to “leave the squad at home.” Following guidance from the Tompkins County Health Department, the market asked visitors to leave groups to a four-person maximum in order to keep the market moving “quickly and safely.”
Cayuga Lake is another destination that has surged in popularity this fall among Cornell students and Ithaca residents alike. Since the arrival of Cornell students, Ithaca Boating Center has seen an increase in demand for boat rentals, as compared to previous years.
“It’s been a big year for everything … We have been pretty much full on weekends,” said Sebastian Acosta, a staff member of the Finger Lakes Boating Center. “There have been a lot of Cornell students coming. There have been some big groups and also a lot of families.”
Regardless of the year, crowds at these destinations ebb and flow according to the weather. Many outdoor destinations will see this summer’s surge in demand plateau and drop as the weather cools.
“With the cold, rainy weather, outside seating is going to be gone and our inside seating capacity outside of our tasting stations is severely limited,” Renodin of Six Mile Creek Vineyard said. “People won’t be looking to go outside and do as much. I think people will find things to do indoors. We got used to it in lockdown.”