Patrolling The Gorges

By Haley Burton

July 11, 2012 Updated Jul 12, 2012 at 10:57 AM EDT

Ithaca, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Ithaca is gorges but they can be dangerous.

Cornell University now has Gorge Stewards who trek the trails to keep gorge areas safe for the campus community and visitors.

"This program is a part of a comprehensive set of recommendations that we put together as a university following three tragic deaths last summer," said Todd Bittner, Director of Natural Areas at Cornell, "It focuses on four areas: gorge infrastructure, education, providing alternatives to swimming and enforcement.

The Gorge Steward program is a part of it. The three gorge stewards split up the patrols areas from the gorge at the Cascadilla Trail to Fall Creek to Beebee Lake.

"I'm talking to people about swimming in natural areas. I'm talking to people about not jumping off of cliffs but also how to better use the gorges whether its orienting people to the natural areas or providing alternatives for swimming," said Mike Roberts, Gorge Steward.

The Stewards are not just educating people on the rules around the gorges and how to be safe, but how to enjoy the gorges as well, talking about the history of the area and the trails.

"Just yesterday I was on the trail and saw some deer and some hikers were just going to walk by and I pointed them out to them. They thanked me later," said Roberts.

Roberts is also a graduate of Cornell University.

"The gorge stewards have interacted with over 300 people in five days providing all kinds of recommendations on how to enjoy the gorges safely," said Bittner.

The Gorge Stewards wear identifying t-shirts.

Cornell Outdoor Education has taken many new initiatives to step up safety in and around the gorge areas. There are new signs posted, repaired railings and trail repairs.

Cornell University is also educating students on gorge safety through programs, videos and pamphlets. Miner says a pilot transportation program will be offered for students this fall. They will be bused to State Parks the first two weeks of the semester where they can swim legally.

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