May 29, 2014

Gorge safety is paramount in Cornell summers

Lisa Malloy and Samantha Kochman
Jason Koski/University Photography
Gorge stewards Lisa Malloy '16, left, and Samantha Kochman '16 are here to greet and guide, inform and advise.

Forsaking national park vacations for a scenic campus in the Finger Lakes, summer Cornellians won’t lack for guidance on enjoying our beautiful gorges.

A dedicated corps of gorge stewards – an integral part of the newly named Nathaniel Rand ’12 Memorial Gorge Safety Education Program – are here to greet and guide, inform and advise.

“Our gorge stewards serve as ambassadors to help inform visitors of all the ways they can safely appreciate the gorges,” says Todd Bittner, Cornell Plantations’ director of natural areas and chair of a campuswide Gorge Safety Committee.

Swimming safely, cheaply

There is no authorized outdoor swimming at Cornell University.

Public swimming pools – with lifeguards and within city limits – are found at the Alex Haley Municipal Pool, 408 N. Albany St. and the Cass Park Pool, 701 Taughannock Blvd. (Route 89).

Two local gorges with lifeguards are Buttermilk Falls State Park, 112 E. Buttermilk Falls Road (off Route 13 south), and Robert H. Treman State Park, 105 Enfield Falls Road (also off Route 13 south), while Taughannock Falls State Park, Route 89 in Ulysses, has public swimming in Cayuga Lake.

Lack a car? TCAT bus Route 22 is a summer-only loop that leaves the Green Street/library stop and connects Buttermilk, Treman, Cass and Taughannock parks.

The Route 22 fare is $1.50, but admission to the state parks is free without a car.

For recommended hiking and running routes on campus, visit Cornell Plantations’ “Take It Outside” site.

“Cascadilla and Fall Creek gorges are an iconic part of Cornell and Ithaca,” Bittner adds, “and we want visitors to safely and responsibly enjoy them.”

The campus gorges are the most spectacular parts of the university’s natural areas – thousands of acres of mostly forested treasures – threaded by marked-and-maintained trails, punctuated by interpretive signage, and peopled by knowledgeable staff members and volunteers.

Cornell’s gorge stewards just might have the perfect summer job: orienting visitors to the extensive system of trails and destinations. They’re happy to talk about authorized recreational activities and opportunities – as well as particular activities, like outdoor swimming anywhere on Cornell University properties, which are not authorized.

The gorge stewards’ friendly warning goes something like this: “Many of the greatest dangers, such as strong currents, are hidden under the sublime beauty of a waterfall. Beyond being illegal, swimming in these areas is particularly dangerous.”

Visitors tempted by the frigid, swift waters of campus gorges are politely but firmly referred to alternative swimming venues.

A formal dedication of the Rand Gorge Safety Program is scheduled later this year.