By Sarah Fiorello

The short answer is 60 hours, two days, and the hard work of 11 people. Before opening the gorge on April 11th, four staff and seven volunteers removed fallen rocks and other debris from the trail, picked up trash, cleared out drainage conduits, repaired parts of the chain railing, and removed hazardous trees.

Where did they move the debris? Even though staff are permitted to deposit a certain amount of collected natural debris into Cascadilla Creek, staff minimizes the amount they dump in the water by placing the material at the very edge of the creek where the water flow is much slower or nonexistent.  When possible, the team moves the debris to flat areas away from the creek, or on slopes piled with loose rock and soil.

A big “thank you” to our volunteers! The team of volunteers was critical to the trail cleanup.  Our Natural Areas program is fortunate to have weekly volunteers who don’t shy away from strenuous labor.

James Hamilton, a dedicated weekly volunteer, said that although shoveling debris and hauling out wooden palettes from a winter project wasn’t his favorite task, but “it was as always exciting hearing Cascadilla roar again and getting that talus off the trail. Tossing a rock into a creek is lots of fun.” James also enjoys hiking in the woods in our natural areas while monitoring hemlocks for the invasive pest Hemlock Woolly Adelgid because he feels he is “doing something important to protect the natural areas.”

Jan Hill, also part of the weekly volunteer crew said the Cascadilla Gorge cleanup was “fun but exhausting” and that the gorge was a “beautiful place to work” that day.

In addition to our long-term botanic gardens volunteers, three Cornell students, one from the Flora Rose House and two from the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, donated their time to the cleanup this year.