Improvements to the lower entrance of Cascadilla Gorge – and a metal-artist’s gate, in particular – have earned Cornell Plantations a 2013 Pride of Ownership award from the city of Ithaca.
The 1,200-pound steel gate – with artist Durand Van Doren’s depiction of waterfalls, oaks and fossil-filled geological strata – closes to bar winter access.
“Many Cornell trails are open year-round – mindful of the ‘No winter maintenance’ postings – but Cascadilla is the one we have to close for public safety,” says Todd Bittner, Plantations’ director of natural areas. “The freeze-thaw cycle can cause falling rock at any time during the winter months, and all those steps get perilously icy.”
Sign of Sustainability awards
Four initiatives by Cornell Plantations have been cited by the local organization, Sustainable Tompkins. The organization’s 2013 Sign of Sustainability awards honored Plantations for the following:
• PEEPS (Plantations Environmental Education Program for Sustainability) experiential learning programs for local teen-aged youth and Cornell students.
• Natural Areas program, also honored by the Town of Ithaca’s Fischer Environmental Conservation Award, for preserving important environmental resources.
• Plantations’ self-guided Poetry Walk through the Mundy Wildflower Garden, where visitors could connect native plants to original poetry through an audio tour.
• Hosting Peter Raven’s “Conserving Species in a Changing World” Class of 1945 Lecture as part of the public Fall Lecture Series.
Until the prize-winning gate reopens in the spring, visitors to the Treman Triangle park (at the junction of Linn Street, Court Street and University Avenue) will have to envision Cascadilla Glen through the eyes and anvil of Van Doren, the Trumansburg, N.Y., blacksmith whose art appears throughout the Cornell campus.
Appearance from public right-of-ways is a key criterion for Pride of Ownership judges. That presented strategic challenges to the Cascadilla project, says Bittner, who credits landscape architect Dave Cutter and project manager Dan McClure for artful site design.
“The gate had to be in just the right place to close off the trail,” Bittner said, “and restoration should honor historic precedent.” They knew they had the right spot for the trail entrance when excavation uncovered an old stone wall – with a blank where a plaque had been.
Early improvements to Cascadilla Gorge date back at least to 1925, when Cornell trustees and benefactors Col. Henry Sackett and Robert H. Treman funded stonework in the two creeks flanking central campus. Today the lower entrance is marked with one of two copper plaques – oak leaves, acorns and all – that previously stood at the upper (College Avenue) entrance: “Cascadilla Glen Trail.”
“Glen” was a more lyrical term than “gorge,” Bittner muses, fending the question he’s heard a thousand times in the three-year, $2.6 million rehab of the trail that links Collegetown and campus with downtown: When will it ever reopen?
Late spring (or early summer) 2014 is the goal. Work in the trail section between Stewart and College avenues will continue as long as weather permits – then resume as soon as weather conditions allow.
Five other Pride of Ownership awards, a joint project of the city and the Rotary Club of Ithaca, went this year to home restorations on Buffalo and East State streets; a mural by the Italian artist Alice Pasquini; a Fall Creek neighborhood grocery; and the Adopt-an-Art Panel installation on the Ithaca Commons.