Skip to main content

Ithaca is People: Jay Potter


So, you work for the Cornell Plantations. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do there?

Yes, I'm the in-house graphic designer, so I work on a lot of orientation signage that you see to all of the different botanic gardens and offsite trails, and also along all of the gorges. Above Cascadilla Gorge, Fall Creek Gorge... all of that is the Cornell Plantations.

For those people who don't know what the Cornell Plantations are can you explain it briefly?

Wow, well it's a lot. But essentially, it's a botanic garden right on Ithaca's doorstep, and it's free and open to the public. There's a 100-acre arboretum, there are numerous different specialized botanic gardens; the flower garden, winter garden - which is a must-see during the cold times - wildflower garden... there's a long list of collections. And then offsite there's a number of running trails, walking trails and land that's been acquired and donated over a long period of time. All of that, everything, is totally accessible and wide-open to anyone at any time.

Is it all free?

It is.

Awesome! Well, I just want to back up for a second and go back - since summer is coming to a close and the colder months are indeed coming up - and talk about this "Winter Garden" because so many people wonder what there is to do in Ithaca during the colder months.

Yeah, it's a showcase of everything from deciduous trees & shrubs where bark can turn to bright red/crimson or yellow, and evergreens turn vivid chartreuse or gold, and then you have birch trees with bright white or copper color bark, and it's just this whole array of color.” (


Yeah, so you know... take your cocoa and go out there and explore!

Sounds like fun! What is your favorite spot in the Plantations?

This is pretty easy. It is Springtime, and there is a hidden, single-track trail in the [F.R. Newman] Arboretum. It's called the Treman Woodland Walk! There are Japanese Primroses that bloom all along the creek and this year I just sat there with the whole place to myself on a bench at around 8:30 in the morning. It was totally peaceful. If you catch it at the peak time when there's nobody there, it's just a paradise - absolutely stunning! I might just have to post a picture of that (laughs)!”!

Yeah, we would love to see! Although I hope it's not a secret spot for you or anything because then, well, the secret's out!

No, more people should know about it! Come check it out, definitely!

How many people does it take to maintain the Plantations?

There are forty-plus on staff. Now, who is stuck in the office ...I am not sure of the number there... but there are actually surprisingly few that are really maintaining such a large space. I am guessing that there are maybe around a half-dozen people that maintain many, many acres - hundreds of acres - in the Arboretum and the trails.

Wow, that's incredible.

Yeah, it is.

So if I were to spend "the perfect day" in the Plantations, how much time should I block off in my schedule?

Oh, all day!

The entire day?

Yeah, all day. Go for an early morning hike. Walk from downtown Ithaca, take that connecting trail on Cascadilla Gorge from the end of Court Street Treman Triangle Park, up Cascadilla, go in, walk along the trail, go through to the botanical gardens off of Tower Road, wander around, do a circle or two around those highlight gardens, then walk through the Mundy Wildflower Garden and on into the Arboretum. Take a picnic in the arboretum, and then from there you could connect off into a natural area trail and go for a jog after you've carbed up from your picnic (laughs).

I'm going to go do that! Seriously, now that I have instructions on record I am going to do all of it!


If you could describe the Plantations in three words what would they be?

Oh man, that's way hard! Um... Stunning. And can the other two be “Bucket List"? I mean, really… it's prime! These are world renowned gardens. They're easily accessible. The openness of it for residents and visitors. That's the thing - we skew high during the prime garden months for visitors, but residents really need to know that this is right on their doorstep, and it's available to them. So that's what I hope to do with this

That's great. So final question: if you could describe Ithaca in one word what would it be?

I would say "nurturing". That's what I think.

I like that! It's a good one.

Yes, for creativity I think that word suits very well. Whether you’re a musician, writer, painter, photographer, foodie… the Ithaca community definitely rallies to nurture creativity from within local residents. It's a smaller place with ample inspiration and room to grow.


Request a Brochure
2020 Visit Ithaca Travel Guide
Download our brochure or request a hard copy by mail.
Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention & Visitors Bureau
A division of the Tompkins Chamber
904 East Shore Drive, Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: (607) 272-1313 | Toll Free: (800)-28-ITHACA
The official web site of Ithaca, New York and Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau in the Finger Lakes. Complete guide to Ithaca, NY hotels, attractions, dining, shopping and recreation with maps and driving directions.
I Love NY is a registered trademark and service mark of the New York State Department of Economic Development; used with permission.