December 09 2011

Ithaca is Gorges: Preserving Scenic Views in Ithaca, New York

Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls

Ithaca, New York in the Finger Lakes region is known for its natural beauty.  Its dramatic landscape of pastoral hills and valleys, deep gorges, rushing waterfalls, and glittering lakes have created many faithful residents and visitors passionate about protecting the area’s scenic resources. In places like Ithaca, urban planners, architects, and developers must be especially sensitive to how the built environment can preserve and complement the natural environment, not interfere with it. What can planners and urban designers do to prevent developmental encroachment on natural beauty? What does the government have to say?

In Ithaca, the local government understands that the area’s scenic resources are a valuable economic, recreational, and environmental asset. It’s putting together a report that analyzes particularly magnificent views in the Town (draft available on the Town of Ithaca website), in an effort to understand where future physical development would not block scenic overlooks or significantly change viewsheds. The Town has recently passed legislation regulating the placement and appearance of telecommunication towers and wind turbines, hoping to minimize the visual impact of these (typically) eyesores. In all of New York State, development proposals must include a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). This is meant to analyze whether the proposal might impair the quality of important historical, architectural, environmental, and aesthetic resources or existing community character of an area.

Ithaca is Gorges

Ithaca's well-known slogan

Those who submit development proposals will gain approval from local residents, tourists, P&Z boards, and environmental non-profits alike if their plans can showcase and preserve an area’s existing natural beauty. Some points that are considered in each proposal include:

  • Providing an educational element about the near, mid, and far-distance views from your site, such as signage and benches for understanding and enjoying the views;
  • Siting buildings where they have minimal visual impact. The lines, colors, and massing of structures should coordinate with their natural surroundings;
  • Screening or hiding parking lots, mechanical equipment, and other unsightly necessities.

Maintaining the beauty and integrity of the natural environment is clearly an important element of sustainability. In what other ways can we preserve our scenic resources?

 Credits: Images linked to sources.

Nina Coveney

Nina Coveney graduated from Cornell University in 2011 with a B.S. in Urban and Regional Studies. When she began as a blogger with Global Site Plans, she worked for the Town of Ithaca, New York Planning Department. She then transitioned - in writing and real life - to New York City where she began working in the Events department of the Bryant Park Corporation. She hopes to eventually pursue a Master’s Degree in urban planning and design. A native of the New York City metro area, she blogged about trends in sustainability, housing, transportation, and adaptive reuse in both Ithaca and the Big Apple until April 2012.

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 9th, 2011 at 8:58 am and is filed under Environment, History/Preservation, Land Use, Landscape Architecture, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “Ithaca is Gorges: Preserving Scenic Views in Ithaca, New York”

  1. Evan Carney Says:

    Definitely liked your point about providing an educational element – I think that educating the public about our natural resources is a great way to get more people thinking about their preservation! It moves the conversation out of planning offices and other government services and into the lives of everyday people.

  2. Nina Coveney Says:

    Absolutely Evan! Alerting people to the significance of what they’re seeing is the only way to really make them passionate about its preservation too.

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