Ithaca Trails Website Promotes Environmental Awareness

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With an abundance of trails throughout Tompkins County, hikers can often times feel overwhelmed when choosing a path.  A new website called ‘Out on the Trails’ was launched in order to provide a database with every known trail throughout Ithaca, NY and Tompkins County.

Out on the Trails’ was launched by the Town of Ulysses in conjunction with the Tompkins County Parks and Trails Network, Cornell Plantations, Bike Walk Tompkins and the Tompkins County Planning Department.  The site allows users to search for specific trails by location, difficulty, length and proximity to waterfalls or forests.  For example, if a user wants to take a leisurely hike to see waterfalls, they can specify that on the site and find a trail suited to their needs.  The site even offers trails accessible for horseback riding.

Liz Thomas, Ulysses Town supervisor and ‘Out on the Trails’ project lead, said the site was created to make exploring Tompkins County easier and more fulfilling.  The full map available on the site provides a series of trails that run almost entirely through Tompkins County, Thomas said.  With the map available, Thomas said community members will have better access to trails across the area.

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Thomas co-wrote the grant to secure funding for the site with Todd Bittner, director of natural areas at the Cornell Botanic Gardens.  Bittner told the The Ithaca Voice that the county has over 240 miles of public trails.  In order to create the site, Thomas said organizations around Ithaca with information about various trails compiled information together to build a full database.

If a user needs to access the site while on a trail, the site is GPS-enabled and can track a user’s location throughout a hike.  The website also has a printable map in the event that users don’t have cell service at some point on a hike.  While using the site, Thomas said that she has discovered trails she never knew existed before.

There were trails on the website that I had never heard of before, and it was really fun to go and try to find a new trail,” Thomas said.  “As a native of Ithaca, I had went on four trails that I had never been on in my whole life.”

After the website launched, Thomas said some community members realized that Tompkins County is home to a series of trails that lead all the way from Ithaca College to Taughannock Falls.  In a news release, Tompkins County Tourism Program Director Tom Knipe said environmental awareness and promoting tourism to Tompkins County were key reasons for creating the site.

“Making all of our natural areas and trails more accessible to visitors is a great opportunity to grow tourism sustainably by showcasing our existing natural assets,” Knipe said.

Visitors to Tompkins County spend nearly $200 million in local shops, restaurants and hotels while leaving behind roughly $650 in local tax revenues, per a news release from the Tompkins County household.  With the constant influx of new residents and tourists, Thomas said different ideas help promote new ways to improve environmental awareness in Tompkins County.

“There’s so many new people that are always moving in here, that it has a diversity of people who have moved here from different places that bring different ideas to the table,” she said.

With the website available as a resource, residents will be able to better track environmental resources and ensure Ithaca remains a sustainable location.  Thomas also said the culture of Ithaca and Tompkins County is focused on promoting an outdoor lifestyle and, as a result, environmental sustainability.

“We’re [Tompkins County residents] outside all the time,” Thomas said.  “It doesn’t matter what the weather or the season is, there’s just so many cool outdoors things to do.”

In order to promote the launch of the site, several hikes have been planned throughout April.  You can view a listing of each hike here.

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