Dustin Patte/The Ithaca Voice

An uprooted willow tree lies in Stewart Park on Monday after a storm that damaged dozens of trees across the city.

June 23, 2021

Following Summer Storm, City Closes Stewart Park, Golf Course

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Following heavy rains and wind gusts, Stewart Park and Newman Municipal Golf Course remain closed, as city crews clean up dozens of toppled and damaged trees across the city.   

The storm that swept through Tompkins County Monday collapsed at least 12 trees at Stewart Park and nearly 20 trees at Newman Golf Course, according to Jeanne Grace, city forester. The city also closed a damaged part of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. 

“This is incredibly out of the ordinary. The damage is pretty devastating. I’ve never seen devastation like it from just a quick storm that blew through,” said Janelle Alvstad-Mattson, communications coordinator for Friends of Stewart Park. “We are incredibly fortunate that no one was injured and that none of the buildings or the playground were damaged at all.” 

The National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday that a tornado touched down in Yellow Barn State Forest in Dryden during Monday’s storm — sparking speculation that the tornado hit Ithaca. But according to a forecaster with the Binghamton NWS on Wednesday, multiple thunderstorms in the Ithaca area were responsible for the tree damage.  

Grace said the city hopes to reopen the park and the course to golfers by the weekend, as public works crews have been clearing and roping off tree limbs at Stewart Park and at the course since Tuesday morning. 

“It might not be totally cleaned up, but we’ll have the hazardous stuff taken care of, and it will be safe to use the park [by the weekend],” Grace said. “That’s our goal.”

Friends of Stewart Park will also call for people to rake branches and leaves that cover the park fields once the city says it’s safe for volunteers: “Take care, and be ready to assist in cleaning up our beloved park,” the Friends of Stewart Park wrote in a Monday night Facebook post.   

As for service interruptions before the weekend — snapped and uprooted willow tree trunks along the Stewart Park shore have postponed the Friends’ Wednesday tree tour. But Alvstad-Mattson said she doesn’t think the damage will overshadow the park’s Fourth of July event.     

“We have enough leeway time that the city should be able to come through and get rid of all the dangerous elements. It’s still a couple of weeks away,” Alvstad-Mattson said. “We are very hopeful that the Fourth of July birthday party and everything after that will continue as normal.”

Update, June 23, 11:47 a.m.: This post has been updated to include further details on Monday’s storm.

This story was originally published by The Ithaca Voice as a part of The Cornell Daily Sun Ithaca News Fellowship.