ITHACA, N.Y. — Friday morning marked the reopening of Ithaca’s Lake Street Bridge and newly added park. The opening ceremonies included a ribbon cutting and remarks from Mayor Svante Myrick and members of Common Council.

Overlooking Ithaca Falls on the outskirts of Fall Creek, Lake Street Bridge has been under construction for nearly a year and a half. The bridge and park combined cost approximately $1.5 million.

Myrick emphasized the importance of maintenance upkeep and replacement as he explained that the reconstruction of the bridge was initiated improve the appearance of this well known landmark in the city.

The Lake Street Bridge, one of 35 in the city, was designed by engineer Addisu Gebre. Gebre has other well known bridges scattered throughout the city, including the Columbia St. pedestrian bridge and the E. Clinton St. bridge.

“Engineers tend to care more about the infrastructure than the people it serves,” Myrick said. “Addisu proposed aesthetic improvement – he delivered something to us which enhances our connection to nature while still improving our connectivity, so not only is it useful, it’s also beautiful.”

Common Council member Deborah Mohlenhoff said that through public meetings, the bridge and park indicated a balance of concern between preserving the natural beauty of the area while accommodating the residents of Fall Creek.

“I think this is about pride,” Myrick said. “It’s not like this is going to much sales tax  generate revenue, this is more about how you feel about bringing guests who come to visit you and bring(ing) them to the falls and not having to be embarrassed about the front yard.”

The reopening of the falls, however, was not without controversy.

Walter Hang, of Ithaca-based environmental watchdog group Toxics Targeting, brought ot th epublic’s attention last year that the area around Ithaca falls had been re-contaminated by lead and arsenic from the old Ithaca Gun factory, which used to manufacture firearms and ammunition nearby.

Related: As Lake St. bridge reopens, Ithaca Falls contamination concerns resurface

The EPA had initially cleaned up the area in 2004, and Hang said that the latest cleanup efforts are inadequate.

Both city and EPA officials, however,  said that the potential health risks to the public were insignificant, due to the limited contamination area and the fact that it is blocked off from public access.

Alyvia Covert

Alyvia is a Crime Reporter with The Ithaca Voice. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Journalism and Photography.