Town of Ithaca: If you can't stop illegal gorge swimmers, tow 'em

June 30, 2014 by Rachel Cera

Just two weeks ago, a man had to be rescued while swimming illegally in Six Mile Creek gorge near Second Dam, but despite warnings and reminders that it's illegal and dangerous, people haven't stopped. The Town of Ithaca has started trying another approach: towing the swimmers' illegally parked cars.

No parking along Route 79 from May through September. 14850 Photo.No parking along Route 79 from May through September. 14850 Photo.Town residents have complained for several years about the increasing number of gorge swimmers making excess noise, leaving behind trash, and clogging the shoulders along Route 79 and other nearby roads. Residents had also complained about shoulders clogged with extra parked cars making it difficult to see traffic to pull out of their driveways safely.

In 2012, the Town Board succeeded in convincing the New York State Department of Transportation to make parking along Route 79, or Slaterville Road, illegal for the summer. Parking is not allowed along the posted portion of Route 79 from 10am to 8pm, from May 1st to September 30th. The Town of Ithaca doesn't have its own police force, but Tompkins County Sheriff's Department deputies can ticket illegally parked cars and arrange for them to be towed. Town authorities have recently begun enforcing the parking ban and towing cars. 

Cornell and Ithaca police officers, Tompkins County sheriff's deputies, and park rangers are patrolling the area's gorges to remind visitors to stay on the legal trails and avoid trespassing.

To encourage swimming in legal locales, Cornell University has offered free shuttle buses to nearby state parks over two weekends in late August, when students arrive on campus, for the last couple of years. Buses ran to Robert H. Treman State Park in 2012 and Buttermilk Falls State Park in 2013.

For the summer, TCAT is offering daily bus service from Downtown Ithaca to several legal swimming locations in the area. Route 22 will run to Cass Park, the City-owned park in the west end, as well as Buttermilk Falls State Park, Treman State Park, and Taughannock Falls State Park.

Cass Park offers inexpensive day passes or season passes, and admission to the state parks is free, though they charge a parking fee per vehicle.

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