Photo provided by Bittner

Ithaca, N.Y. — A section of the Cascadilla Gorge Trail was vandalized with spray paint this past winter and could cost thousands in repairs, according to Cornell Plantations’ Director of Natural Areas Todd Bittner.

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Underneath the Stewart Avenue bridge, someone spraypainted both the pigmented concrete staircase and the gorge wall itself, Bittner said in a phone interview on Thursday.

The cleanup of the trail — which was originally built in the 1920s and recently underwent a five-year, $2.8 million repair project — poses significant problems, Bittner said.

Because of the graffiti’s close proximity to the water, he said, it is difficult to get equipment into the area for a proper cleanup; finding the right team for the job could prove to be troublesome as well, he said.

“It’s not like we have people, at a moment’s notice, that can jump in and do this,” he said. “It’s going to be a while before we pull together the right team and decide how we want to deal with it.”

Photo provided by Bittner

Bittner said that, unlike most graffiti removals, this particular section — which has been closed since late-November — is too close to the water to warrant the use of graffiti removal products that have “a lot of chemicals in them.”

“Obviously, they work very well,” Bittner said, referring to chemical-filled graffiti removal products. “But they’re not the kind of thing we want to employ,” as they can contaminate the water that runs just feet away from the gorge wall and staircase that were vandalized.

It will take weeks to clean up the area entirely, he said, and when the trail hopefully opens to the public this Friday, “everybody that is going to walk on the trail will see it.”

The cleanup was estimated by Bittner to cost between $3,000 and $6,000, to be paid for with Cornell Plantations maintenance funds. Since 2008, Bittner has overseen the cleanup of “a number” of other vandalized natural areas, including the Fall Creek gorge several years ago.

Anyone that sees, or has seen, vandalism occurring throughout the gorge trails is asked to contact Cornell police or Ithaca police with details.

“It’s a one-in-a-kind experience to have a gorge and a trail right in the middle of town,” Bittner said. “To have such terrible vandalism occur is just hard to swallow.”


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Kyle Friend

A senior at Cornell University, Kyle covers the affordable housing crisis for the Ithaca Voice. Reach him through e-mail: kyleafriend@gmail.com.