ITHACA, N.Y.—GO ITHACA is a program under the Downtown Ithaca Alliance that provides sustainable transportation benefits and incentives. This summer, the program is hosting a free outdoor tours series, which encourages less driving through the use of eco-friendly modes of transportation—such as walking and biking—to explore the natural wonders of Ithaca. 

Funding for the series comes from the Tompkins County Tourism Program’s Outdoors Grant to promote outdoor recreation, as well as the Climate Smart Communities Grant Program from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to combat climate change. 

“We’re trying to hold up to the ideas of the Ithaca Green New Deal and becoming…one of the first carbon neutral cities,” said Carrie Spanton, Outreach Coordinator for GO ITHACA. “But really it’s just our mission to, you know, have a really nice downtown area that’s not congested by traffic and polluted by emissions.” 

The creation of the summer tour series stemmed from many requests of the program’s 500+ members to have more events. “We also paired with the hotels downtown to expand the tours, not just to our members, but also to visitors to Ithaca as well, so that they can…get away from downtown, see our beautiful outdoor spaces,” Spanton explained. 

From June 4th to August 14th, tours occur every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 11:30 AM starting from the Bernie Milton Pavilion located in the Downtown Ithaca Commons. A different itinerary is planned for each day and repeats on a weekly basis. 

On Fridays, the program embarks on a walking tour of the Cascadilla Gorge. This walk has a distance of 1.3 miles, difficulty level of medium to hard, and duration of approximately one to one and a half hours. 

On Saturdays, tour participants bike on a route through Ithaca Falls and the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, with stops along the way. This route has a distance of five miles, difficulty level of easy, and duration of approximately one and a half to two hours. Participants can bring their own bike or rent one from Boxy Bikes. GO ITHACA is partnering with this local business to provide $20.00 discounts towards renting regular or electric bikes. Those interested can reach out to Boxy Bikes with the code “GOITHACA” to receive the discount. 

On Sundays, the group hikes through Taughannock Falls State Park, with photography stops along the way. This hike has a distance of three-quarters of a mile, difficulty level of easy, and duration of approximately two hours. Bus fare is waived through the program to take the Route 22 bus on the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) to Trails system to the state park, passing by Cayuga Lake on the way. The round-trip bus ride takes about one hour, bringing the total duration of the trip to about three hours. 

In case of inclement weather, GO ITHACA will provide updates on tour cancellations via their Facebook or Instagram accounts. 

Through the tours, Spanton hopes that people will become more familiar and comfortable with taking public transportation. “There’s a stigma that can be attached to it,” she said. “Being able to do that with a group of people who do it all the time, is, you know, a really nice benefit.” 

Additionally, those interested in GO ITHACA’s other services, such as providing free TCAT passes and Ithaca Carshare credit, can register for a free membership on their website to receive benefits, newsletters, raffle opportunities, and more.

Jacqueline Woo is working with The Ithaca Voice this summer as part of a fellowship through the Cornell Daily Sun.