Editor’s Note: The following is a guest column written by Aaron Munzer, manager of the Ithaca Farmers Market.
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Bus To Nature: Route 22
ITHACA, N.Y. — Call it Ithaca’s “High Line:” The Cayuga Waterfront Trail is a great way to enjoy a side of our city almost none of us have ever seen.
Yes, the Cayuga Waterfront Trail has been two-thirds finished for years. But like most things, two-thirds finished is almost the same as not at all. Now, though, the contractors are wrapping up their hard work, putting on the finishing touches, and the almost-completed trail network is already attracting thousands of curious Ithacans, interested to see what the edge of their city really looks like.
I remember Ithaca before the waterfront trail. The waterfront was sketchy. It was also not your property. It was the province of gravel piles, propane tanks and feral ducks. You could not walk on it, you could only kayak past and admire the dead fish slapping listlessly against the weed-filled banks of the Cayuga Inlet. Just lovely.
All that has changed. In the past few weeks, I’ve walked the trail two or three times, and I’ve marveled at how it has changed the way I’ve thought about walking in Ithaca, specifically to the farmers market. Instead of an impassable thicket, the waterfront sports a handsome, wide and paved trail lined with elegant boulders. It’s spur into the downtown, the Rt. 13 Crossing Project, means that thoughts of your impending violent death won’t flicker through your brain as you approach the Third Street crossing, so parking offsite and walking to the market just became much more appealing and convenient.
The Ithaca Farmers Market’s parking lot has always been crowded, it’s true. With the construction of the trail, the market has also given up fifty of our precious parking spaces to this community pedestrian infrastructure, in the hopes that if they build it (and they have), then you, the community, will start to leave your vehicles at home and come by foot, or by two wheels, in ever greater numbers.
We think the Cayuga Waterfront Trail has really changed the equation for inviting the people of Ithaca “down by the bay, where the watermelons grow (or sell).” Don’t want to sit in your car in the hot parking lot? Can’t stand the dust? Want to precipitously lower your carbon footprint? Leave your four wheels at home, or park further away, and the trail becomes a beautiful pathway to one of the best farmer’s markets in the country. You can walk, jog, skate, bike, or walk your dog, cat, or talking parrot right up to the pavilion, and find a spot on the breakfast burrito line at Solaz, or the line for fresh-pressed juice at Biz and Benny’s.
More bike racks are being installed at the market entrance, so you can lock your bike up too! That simple! No waiting in line! Then, grab some groceries, stuff them in one of our reusable tote bags, and head back on your merry way. You could go south, to grab some more food from Greenstar, or head north and have a barbecue at Stewart Park. The entire waterfront is your oyster when you’re on the trail.
This was the plan when the trail network was designed, said Waterfront Trail Initiative coordinator Rick Manning, who has helped to shepherd the trail to its eventual completion over the last 14 years.
“The farmers market is kind of like the biggest destination along the trail, at least on Saturdays and Sundays, and it’s great for the market to have the trail there so folks can get there via other methods like walking and biking,” he told me. “It’s a much more pleasant way to get there.”
Please make sure to attend the waterfront trail ribbon cutting ceremony at the farmer’s market, Sunday, August 30, that we’re hosting for the Cayuga Waterfront Trail Initiative. The market is a de facto hub of the new trail, and we want to support it and be a destination in a more walk-able, live-able and vibrant waterfront district. Hope to see you at market.