ITHACA, N.Y. — As the region reopens and the weather gets warmer, Cornell University is urging students and Ithaca residents to be cautious when enjoying the gorges and other outdoor resources, and announcing a gorge safety website with reminders of old safety measures and new proceedures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Research shows that spending time in nature lowers stress levels and improves other health measures,” notes Todd Bittner, the director of the Gorge Safety Committee. “Yet it is equally critical that we practice safe and responsible use of gorges and natural areas, and respect the natural dangers inherent in them.”

In a press release, the University encourages residents to take advantage of Ithaca’s natural resources but advises them to remain cautious. The gorge safety website, prepared by the Gorge Safety Committee, promotes the traditional regulations, including staying on the trials and prohibition on the use of bikes, that have been in place since a string of deaths in 2011 prompted increase precautions.

Swimming is extremely dangerous and potentially fatal, and is strictly prohibited in the gorges at all times,” the university reminds those who may want to use the gorges to cool off.

“Many of the greatest dangers, such as strong currents, are hidden under the sublime beauty of a waterfall. Beyond being illegal, swimming in these areas is particularly dangerous,” warn the stewards.

Aside from following the usual regulations, Cornell suggests that residents take additional caution due to COVID-19. It is now recommended that residents wear masks, maintain social distancing, and avoid large groups. 

Many trails are closed due to not having appropriate space to maintain social distancing, including the lower section of the Cascadilla Gorge Trail between College Avenue and University Avenue.

The F.R. Newman Arboretum remains closed to vehicles to accommodate safe pedestrian use of interior roads for physical distancing, with alternate parking available in the B Lot near Route 366 off Caldwell Road.

Noting the importance of nature to people’s physical and mental health, Bittner says, “Visit us often, for your own benefit, but please do so safely.”