Cornell Botanic Gardens, University, and City Collaborate to Improve Gorge Safety
With the support of Cornell Botanic Gardens and Cornell University, the City of Ithaca Common Council in December voted to permit erection of a safety barrier over the 19th-century industrial relic known as “Ezra’s Tunnel.” While never intended to serve as a public access point, the former sluiceway provided unauthorized ingress to the city-owned area of Fall Creek Gorge at the top of Ithaca Falls and to nearby waterfalls and plunge pools that are among the most dangerous in the Finger Lakes.
The barrier was designed, funded, and constructed by Cornell University, then ownership turned over to the city of Ithaca in January 2018.
Closing Ezra’s Tunnel is part of a broader strategy that the Cornell Gorge Safety Committee, which includes city representation, has been working on to promote safe and responsible use of the gorges. The Nathaniel Rand ’12 Memorial Gorge Safety Education Program is named in memory of a student who died in a gorge drowning accident in 2011. The program’s goal is to prevent future tragedies by informing visitors about safe and responsible use of the gorges.
The program includes educational initiatives such as the gorge stewards, orientation hikes for new students, educational programming for orientation leaders and residence advisors, and a gorge safety video and brochure (pdf). These educational efforts are just one part of a comprehensive safety program that includes providing safe recreational alternatives, enforcement, and maintenance of gorge infrastructure.