Updates from the Tompkins County Park & Trail Network September 2022 meeting

Forgot to share this until now, so it’s a little out of date in places, but still lots of interesting details about trails in our area.

Tompkins County Park and Trail Network Partner Updates – September 28, 2022

Black Diamond Trail

Current Issues or Challenges: Informing hospital staff and visitors of the access trail to the BDT. The ability to enjoy walking in a natural setting provides definite therapeutic value to staff and to visitors stressed by a loved one’s lengthy hospital stay.

Opportunities for Improvements or Expansion: With the help of a grant from Sustainable Tompkins and the kind cooperation of the Cayuga Nature Center, we have installed a porta potty on CNC land adjacent to the BDT. A blank notebook provided for comments shows it to be a very popular trail amenity. Since the funding for this feature is finite, we think its proven popularity indicates an opportunity for Parks to provide this service.

An opportunity for expansion exists in extending the trail from upper Taughannock to downtown Trumansburg.

BDT Access from Museum of the Earth/Cayuga Medical Center (0.5 miles)

  • Current status: Open with signage; Parking available at Museum of the Earth
  • Current issues: Awaiting word on a grant for improvements to wet areas
  • Opportunities: Trailhead near a bus stop, perfect for hiking back into Ithaca (2.5 - 3.0 miles) Cooperative effort by BDTEN, CMC, PRI and NY Parks

Cayuga Waterfront Trail

Rick Manning held a meeting in August with Fernando (ITCTC), Margaret (Bike Walk) and Doug Dylla to start an advisory group for the CWT and look over the trail, discuss connections, conditions, maintenance, etc. We decided that a small group meeting quarterly to discuss Waterfront Trail issues and opportunities and report to the Friends of Stewart Park board, would be very helpful. Some thoughts that came out of the meeting:

  1. We need to get a relatively high-level staff person from the City of Ithaca assigned to CWT maintenance and improvements.

  2. We need a have a high-level, five-year plan of improvements and maintenance tasks for the CWT (with key priorities noted).

  3. Ideally, a small committee of the FSP board should be focused specifically and solely on the CWT.

  4. With all of the development along the Cayuga Waterfront, it would be great to recruit major corporate sponsors for the CWT who could financially support the CWT, help promote it, support workdays, etc. The City of Buffalo‘s waterfront has been very successful in improving their Outer Harbor area with parks, trails and amenities with the support of Independent Health (a regional HMO). The local sponsors could include: Cornell, IC, CMC, Guthrie, Greenstar, Ithaca Boating Center, Wegmans and other developers along the trail.

Cornell Botanic Gardens (multiple trails)

Cayuga Trail, located on Botanic Gardens and co-managed by CTC and BG.

Current status: completed 10 miles
Current issues or challenges: lack of volunteer stewards

Opportunities for improvements or expansions: interconnection with Dryden Rail Trail in Monkey Run. Potential relocation of a trail section south of Fall Creek that is in very poor condition to be rerouted on the future Dryden Rail Trail spur trail that parallels Rt. 13 to go under the Rt. 13 bridge over Fall Creek. Spur trail has two significant wetlands that need to be crossed, and likely will require delineation, permitting, and mitigation, with costs exceeding those we have grant funds for.

Cascadilla Gorge Trail

Current status: completed

Current issues or challenges: high maintenance costs and inadequate staffing for maintenance

Opportunities for improvements or expansions: not all land in Cascadilla Gorge is owned by Cornell; portions of the gorge slope between Stewart Avenue and Linn Street on the south side are privately owned. Acquisition of privately owned areas of the gorge should be pursued. There is also interest in restoring an entrance to Cascadilla Gorge that starts in the SE corner of the Stewart Avenue Bridge.

Fischer Old-growth Forest Current status: completed

Current issues or challenges: funding

Opportunities for improvements or expansions: we are pursuing an 81 acre addition to the natural area that would allow us to relocate a section of trail to a more gentle incline and reduce maintenance costs. If funded, we could also expand trails along old logging roads in the Bandler Family Forest addition to Fischer.

Edwards Lake Cliffs

Current status: completed

Current issues or challenges: user created trails

Opportunities for improvements or expansions: This trail has become very popular, likely from being put on google maps and ithacatrails.org. The site is being negatively impacted by user-created trails to get additional views of the gorge and lake. We do not have staff to police the area and signs/closures/fencing that we put out get vandalized.

Bald Hill

Current status: completed

Current issues or challenges: unauthorized ATV and snowmobile use, vandalism

Opportunities for improvements or expansions: we have posted and tried to gate off entrances to the trail here (an abandoned Town Road) and chains and gates there have been vandalized/stolen. DEC ECO’s have a large workload so we have not been able to get much law enforcement support here to address issues.

TBD (Ellis Hollow to Hammond Hill/FLT) Current status: idea stage

Current issues or challenges: acquisition or easements for two parcels east of Yellow Barn SF

Opportunities for improvements or expansions: Andy Zepp and [Todd Bittner] have theoretically mapped out how a trail could be built to connect the FLLT Ellis Hollow Preserve to Hammond Hill crossing Cornell-owned lands on Mt. Pleasant, crossing Ringwood Ponds NA, then crossing 2-3 privately owned parcels (depending on owners and location), which would then connect to Yellow Barn SF, then to the FLLT Roy Park Preserve, and onto Hammond Hill and the FLT.

TBD (Cornell to Sapsucker Woods) Current status: idea

Current issues or challenges: funding, design, CU bureaucracy

Opportunities for improvements or expansions: The Lab of O recently acquired a property between Sapsucker Woods and Hanshaw Road, across from the agricultural fields east of Freese Road. The lab intends to open that to public use and include a trail(s). That trail could be extended to the south and west to connect to campus through a couple different routes or alternatives.

South Hill Swamp

Current issues or challenges: this site is not open to the public, but community members have created a mile-plus of user-created trails here.

Opportunities for improvements or expansions: designing and funding could create a more sustainable trail and allow us to make this natural area open to the public.

Flat Rock Bridge renovation

Current status: In planning. $37K has been raised toward a $60K goal. Construction planned for summer 2023

Current issues or challenges: Union restrictions for volunteer work on Cornell facilities has slowed the project and increased costs

Opportunities for improvements or expansions: Connections with union officials would be welcome - to help reduce restrictions on what volunteers can contribute to the project construction

Dryden Rail Trail

Here is a brief progress update on developing the 14.4-mile Dryden Rail Trail. The trail is open from Freeville through Dryden Village to Purvis Road at the Cortland County line north of Harford (7.5 miles, including the Jim Schug Section), and it’s open two ways from Stevenson Road – west to Game Farm Road and east to Route 13 (2.7 miles). Meanwhile, work continues on the remaining stretch of 4.2 miles between Route 13 and Freeville.

And, this week, County Highway has begun their promised road work at Game Farm Road to remove/reduce the unsafe “vertical curve” north of the trail crossing. This, we hope, will soon lead to County approval of the request by the Towns of Dryden and Ithaca to install safety features and to open the crossing connecting the Dryden Rail Trail to the East Ithaca Recreation Way.

Finger Lakes Land Trust (multiple trails)

Bell Station (Lansing)

Current status: The trails are open now for all to enjoy! More information: https://www.fllt.org/savebellstation

Sims-Jennings Preserve at Cayuga Cliffs (Lansing)

Current status: Planning, intend to open the new preserve and trails in 2023. More information: https://www.fllt.org/cayugacliffs

Tapan Mitra Preserve (Ithaca)

Trailhead for Finger Lakes Trail with through access to Sweedler Nature Preserve in one direction and to Robert H. Treman in the other

Current status: Parking area under construction now, will be complete in fall 2022; more information: https://www.fllt.org/tapan-mitra-preserve-trail-access-point-closed-until-further-notice/

Eberhard Nature Preserve (Caroline) & trailhead for Finger Lakes Trail

Current status: Parking area just completed; reroute of FLT complete, kiosk under construction, will be complete in fall 2022. More information: https://www.fllt.org/land-donation-will-establish-143-acre-nature-preserve-in-tompkins-county/

Summerland Farm Preserve (Caroline) & trailhead for Finger Lakes Trail

Current status (i.e. in planning, funded, under construction, completed): Parking area just completed on adjacent Potato Hill State Forest in partnership with the NYS DEC; open for all to enjoy! More information: https://www.fllt.org/finger-lakes-land-trust-partnership-establishes-new-parking-area-at-potato-hill-state-forest-in-tompkins-county/

Hammond Hill State Forest / Y1: The entry trail that starts at the parking lot at Hammond Hill State Forest

Current status: This is our 2022 project. The Friends of Hammond Hill had a fundraiser requesting $22K. We raised $8K.

Current issues or challenges: Did not meet financial goal. But we will repair the worst damage. Hope to finish construction in October 2022.

Opportunities for improvements or expansions: We now have a 501c sponsor (FLRC) and are investigating the NY Parks & Trails grant opportunities. Open to other grant opportunities.

Shindagin Hollow State Forest trails

Current status: 20 miles of multi-use (bike/hike) trails. On-going maintenance by volunteer stewardship agreement supported by Cycle-CNY and NYS DEC

Current issues or challenges: not enough off-street parking in summer, lack of parking/access maintenance in winter; illegal trash dumping along state forest roads; lack of approved chainsaw operators to remove large downed trees from trails

Opportunities for improvements or expansions: need to re-engage Town of Caroline highway support to address parking/dumping issues

Thank you for sharing this, it’s really exciting to hear all the things happening and in the works!

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I just finished reading this. Thanks for attending the meeting and sharing!

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