Avoid lower Cascadilla Gorge and control dogs in Newman Arboretum, Cornell Plantations officials request

With flood-damage repairs in Cascadilla Gorge about to begin and dogs running loose in the Newman Arboretum, officials at Cornell Plantations have two requests for the public: Please stay out of lower Cascadilla Gorge (between College Avenue and University Avenue) until repairs are complete and comply with dog leash laws.

Flooding in January 1996 left the Cascadilla Gorge trail virtually impassable, forcing Cornell Plantations to close the popular commuting route to the public. Particularly hazardous -- both to trespassers and to repair crews working in the gorge this spring with funds from state and federal emergency management agencies -- is a stone staircase below the Stewart Avenue bridge. The decades-old staircase was reduced to a width of 20 inches, with a shear rock wall on one side and a drop to a waterfall on the other side.

"Traversing Cascadilla Gorge is 'a walk back through time,' as the geologists like to say, but that same inaccessibility is also why repairs are so time-consuming and expensive," explained Hal Martin, Plantations facilities manager. "All the repair materials have to be carried to the site by hand, from either the entrance in Collegetown or University Avenue. We are asking the Ithaca community to give us the time necessary to complete repairs and stay out of lower Cascadilla gorge until the trail is officially open."

Visitors are welcome in all other areas of Cornell Plantations, including the arboretum and botanical gardens, but dogs there have become a problem, Martin said. "Plantations staff have tried a variety of approaches to educate dog-walking patrons about the need to keep four-legged friends on a short leash and in control," he said. Despite signs, handouts and talks with individual pet owners, dogs continue to romp unrestrained. They damage plants with their urine, frighten children and elderly persons, and create unhealthy and unpleasant conditions with their droppings.

"For these reasons Plantations' management has asked Cornell Police to enforce town and city leash laws throughout the arboretum and botanicals gardens," Martin said. "We also encourage dog walkers to pick up after their pets. Police will insist that dogs be on a short leash and in control. Visitors who cannot comply will be asked to leave the grounds and may be issued a ticket. We feel these measures are necessary to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit for all friends of Plantations."

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