Yesterday, I took a walk up University Avenue, looking for the disputed Redbud Woods. Cornell students have been demonstrating and were hauled out of Day Hall by police; two others chained themselves to a little sycamore tree outside the administration bulding in symbolic protest of Cornell's plan to pave over this small woods. Cornell claims that they can only attract world-class freshman students if they can park their cars near to their dorm. The neighborhood association and the city's Landmarks Preservation Committee have been against the idea, but Cornell sued, and the state's Supreme Court ruled that it was an appropriate use of land under the zoning laws in existence. Though I've done plenty of walking to and from Cornell, and all around, I didn't recall ever walking through Redbud Woods, so I decided to check it out.
It's perfect timing to take a walk up University Avenue. Past the gorge entrance at the east end of Court Street, up the hill, the old cemetery looms to the right and the forsythia cascade all along the road in abundant bloom. Large houses full of student rentals and year-round residents are on the west side of the street overlooking the city. Before the four-way intersection with Willard Way and Gunhill Road, the entry way to Redbud Woods is on the right. A crumbling asphalt path winds through the woods. Lo and behold, a pink haze comes into focus as I walk and I see that the woods is indeed full of redbud trees coming into bloom. A deer crossed my path. This is the ideal way for people living on University Ave (as we call it) to gather their thoughts while making their way to the campus without a car. Such pocket parks are so essential to a quality urban life. It seems terribly regressive that Cornell wants to create another ugly parking lot that just encourages more driving. I'll be adding my voice to let Jeffrey Lehman (president of Cornell) know that this is not sustainable.
I took another route back downtown--a way I had gone many times in the past. Out of Redbud Woods, I headed south on Stewart Avenue past the new West Campus dorms, where freshman would live with or without their cars within a block away. The safety walls built around the construction site had "No parking" signs splashed on them. Graffiti artists added "in Redbud Woods." In a few minutes, I arrived at the bridge over Cascadilla Gorge. Right before the bridge, there's a walking path that heads down the hill overlooking the gorge. I wanted to see what spring flowers were blooming. The small gardens nestled in beds on ledges amid rocks by the old European-style houses as the path winds down the hill overlooking the gorge and rushing water far below. At one spot in the path I noticed a patch of garlic mustard budding out, just getting ready to bloom. I turned around and decided to pick them all, as there were only about 15 or 20 plants amid the vinca. But if they were left to go to seed, they would probably be taking over by next year. Pulled them by the roots and carried the bundle home and stuck them right in the bucket along with the dandelion greens I had picked earlier in the day at home. I had filled the bucket with water so as to keep the greens fresh until processed later in the day.