Ithaca, N.Y. — Crews broke ground today on a $1.9 million project to “transform” the overlook area of Taughannock Falls State Park, according to state officials.


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The 21st Century Library Campaign — Tompkins County Public Library

Among the planned changes for the area by the overlook, state officials said in a news release, are:

— New picnic areas.

— A “comfort station” that will be usable during three seasons.

— An adjoining “seasonal traveler information counter.” This will be staffed by the Ithaca visitors’ bureau.

— Plant gardens… Including, according to officials, “meadow plantings with a wide diversity of grasses and flowers; shrubs such as spicebush, indigo bush, witchhazel and maple-leaf viburnum; and trees such as cucumber magnolia, chinquapin oak, pagoda dogwood, eastern red cedar and basswood.”

— A new and redesigned parking area.

— A “permeable pavement system designed to collect and filter stormwater.” This will use a $320,000 grant to reduce soil erosion and better manage pollutants that would typically enter Cayuga Lake, according to a news release.

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Officials say the changes will reduce runoff: “The porous surface that will be installed on the Overlook parking lot will absorb and gradually cleanse the stormwater runoff that would otherwise make its way into Cayuga Lake,” said Matthew Driscoll, president and CEO of the state’s Environmental Facility Corporation’s Green Innovation Grant Program, in a statement.

“The result will be amazing as water will seem to literally disappear through the surface of the parking lot.”

Timeline: The project is scheduled for completion in May 2016.

Background about the area, from the statement: “Situated as a destination along the longest running wine trail in New York, the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, the popular Finger Lakes park is also home to campsites and cabins that overlook Cayuga Lake, a marina, boat launch, beach and multi-use trails perfect for non-stop enjoyment.”

“Taughannock Falls State Park’s namesake waterfall is one of the outstanding natural attractions in the Northeast. Taughannock Falls plunges 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge. Gorge and rim trails offer majestic views from above the falls and from below at the end of the gorge trail.”

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.