ITHACA, NY – Discussions about Ithaca’s swimming ban at August’s Common Council meeting seemed to end on a positive note, but swimmers and authorities have continued to clash.

Spurred on by an apparent crack-down on swimming last weekend, a “swim-in” protest is planned for this Saturday at the second dam at Six Mile Creek. The swim-in is planned to start at 4:30 on Saturday.

On the Facebook page promoting the event, organizer Logan Bell included a brief video interview of a man whose group was apparently kicked out of the creek by county sheriff’s deputies and told not just to leave the water, but leave the area entirely.

“They got really rude to some other people that were there, veterans, they told them to ‘Go back to where they came from’ and all this other nonsense,” the man says. “And we weren’t disrespectful to them at all, but they’re really ruining a really good place there.”

Bell, who moved to Ithaca from Texas eight years ago and fell in love with its natural waters, says that the attempts to keep people out of the gorges has never sat right with him.

He noted the “cat and mouse” game played by swimmers and authorities, where people kicked out of the water at second dam might just move down to the first dam. City officials have expressed these concerns as well, saying that if people were blocked from first and second dams, they would just go to Potter’s Falls.

“I think it would be a much better approach to embrace swimming, let people that are peacefully, safely swimming enjoy the water,” Bell says. “And to encourage people to come together as a community more to help with the trash problem, the problems with people doing reckless things, and some of the safety hazards. There’s a lot of unresolved issues.”

What spurred the latest round of debate about swimming in the gorges was an attempt to change the law, as current law says that people cannot swim any waters in Ithaca that aren’t designated for swimming. Swimming at Six Mile Creek has been a bit of a gray area, since it is city property but not within the city limits.

So far, that has been an obstacle to actually enforcing the relatively few times when sheriff’s deputies have had to write tickets for disruptive behavior in the gorges.

“We’re trying to raise the public consciousness by intentionally breaking what we consider an unjust law,” says Bell. “And from my studying the case I don’t think we’re breaking the law at all, so to be detained and arrested for swimming when there’s no clear legal basis is something we’re trying to draw attention to.”

(Featured photo by Sam Scott)

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.