ITHACA, N.Y.—As the weather gets warmer and more people are looking to get outdoors, exploring Tompkins County’s various trails continues to be a popular way to experience nature and enjoy the summer weather by both foot and wheel.
The Black Diamond Trail, an Ithaca favorite since it opened to the public in 2016, sees walkers, joggers and bikers year-round, and visitors will now be welcomed by a newly built kiosk located at the trailhead. More than 30 bicycle enthusiasts and supporters attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday afternoon to celebrate the establishment of the new kiosk.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Finger Lakes Regional Headquarters to unveil the information kiosk as well as its surrounding space. Fred Bonn, the Finger Lakes State Park Regional Director, said the kiosk is meant to create a signature spot marking the trailhead of the trail.
According to Bonn, the kiosk has been part of the vision for the trail for more than 20 years and has been in the works for the last eight years but has now been made possible with the help of additional funding and donations.
The trailhead is located at the intersection of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail and the Black Diamond Trail adjacent to the Ithaca Children’s Garden near Cass Park.
The spot includes a new bike repair station for flat tires and other repairs donated by Cayuga Ski and Cyclery. The kiosk also provides interpretive signage including a map, and history and description of the Black Diamond as well as others in Tompkins County. Friends of Stewart Park donated benches and bike racks and additional sitework and signage installation was done by state park staff.
Along with establishing a landmark to help people find the trailhead, the kiosk also serves as a tribute to Andrejs Ozolins, a longtime member of the Finger Lakes Cycling Club (FLCC) and prominent advocate for the creation of the trail and bicycle safety, who died in May 2019. Ozolins was well-known in the local cycling community for his passion and activism for safe and enjoyable travel for bikers, drivers and walkers alike. Doug Dylla, vice president of FLCC, said Ozolins was a key member of the Finger Lakes Cycling Club for decades, helping coordinate weekly group rides, maintaining the organization’s website and organizing weekend excursions to cities including Montreal and Pittsburgh.
“He was always an avid cyclist — recruiting new riders, encouraging them to push the boundaries, and advocating for improved cycling infrastructure in Ithaca and the region,” Dylla wrote in an email to The Ithaca Voice. “Almost every cyclist I know remembers Andrejs in their first few rides — helping fix their bikes or waiting at the top of a big hill or just chatting while riding along together.”
Ozolins, who was able to see the trail’s completion before his death, helped build political support for its completion. According to Dylla, over 40 members of FLCC donated a total of more than $10,000 to the new trail kiosk in his memory. There is a rock beside the kiosk displaying a plaque in his name so anyone traveling past the trailhead can learn about his legacy.
Ithaca Mayor Laura Lewis, an avid local cyclist, said that she hopes the kiosk will make it easier to find the Black Diamond Trail and encourage more people to take advantage of the local trail systems, especially to see wildlife and scenic areas not found anywhere else. “To tell people where the Black Diamond Trail begins in Ithaca has always been a little bit difficult because there has been no visible demarcation,” Lewis said. Now, families can park in the parking lot near the trailhead kiosk and explore the trail using the map displayed on the kiosk.
“Now you can say, ‘I’ll meet you at the kiosk at the start of the trail,’” Lewis said.
The Black Diamond Trail runs along what used to be the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which carried the Black Diamond Express that ran from New York to Buffalo from 1896 until 1959. Today, the Black Diamond Trail extends approximately 8.5 miles from Alan H. Treman State Park Marina/Cass Park to Taughannock Falls State Park. The trail serves as both a popular recreational trail as well as a commuter link between the City of Ithaca and the Village of Trumansburg.