Several student groups — including the Eco Adventurers, Friends of the Gorge, Residential Student Congress and residents in the Ecology House — have worked together this past semester to organize gorge-clean up projects that they hope will beautify and rectify the image of the gorges. Each of these student-run organizations aims to promote safety, maintenance and recreation in the gorges and natural areas on the Cornell campus, according to Zachary Velcoff ‘13, a member of Friends of the Gorge.
“[In addition] to making our gorges and the surrounding trails safer and cleaner for passersby, I hope that our cleaning efforts will also contribute to fostering a sense of familiarity and ease around the gorges,” Sarah Kennedy ‘10 said. Kennedy is a resident advisor in the Ecology House on North Campus, and the advisor for the Eco Adventurers. “They are such a beautiful part of our Ithaca landscape and rather than seeing them as places only of tragedy and fear, I think it is important to re-establish a healthy sense of respect for the gorges and the trails.”
During the first cleanup project in early April in the stretch of area between the Suspension Bridge and the Stewart Avenue Bridge, there was a considerable amount of trash, according to Kennedy.
“In about an hour, six or seven of us collected about 14-15 bags of garbage,” Kennedy said. “We found large items, [including] several chairs, a deflated kiddie pool, a carpet, a rusty saw blade, some lady’s lace underwear, a fire extinguisher, several unopened beers, plus a ton of plastic cups, paddles and liquor bottles.”
One program implemented this past semestser was the “Adopt-a-Gorge” program, which is run by FOG. The program allows groups of more than six students to take control of a portion of a gorge, taking charge of clean-up and maintenance efforts. FOG is supported by Cornell Plantations, which allows FOG to use their dumpster to drop off bags of gorge trash. According to Sarah Schoenber ’12, president of FOG, the program has been successful so far, with the Eco Adventurers even adopting a piece of the gorge. FOG gives adoptive “parent” groups various tasks for keeping their area healthy, including the cleaning of steps and surrounding trails.
“Our role is to help facilitate keeping gorges clean,” Schoenberg said.
In response to the fences placed on the bridges over the gorges, the cleanup-organizers also hope to influence the decision for the permanent barriers to be implemented.
“The permanent solution should complement and enhance the natural beauty of the area, as the chain-link fences unfortunately do not,” Velcoff added. “[The members of FOG] are looking into alternative barriers tailored to the style and natural surroundings of the different bridges, and are pressing university officials to, when making their decision, consider psychological research on the stress-reducing effects of frequent exposure to natural beauty.”
In addition to the two projects earlier this semester, there will be one final clean-up project on May 10 from 3 to 4 p.m. in the Fall Creek Gorge.