Recreational Activities at Onondaga Lake are in Development; Reaction is Mixed Natives Disagree With the Push for Recreational Activities at Onondaga Lake

The boat launch and loop trail are just two of many developing projects.

Anchor: Onondaga Lake visitors can soon expect more fun at the lake with Honeywell’s Loop the Lake trail and a New York State funded boat launch. The projects are a part of the next steps to increase access to the lake after the clean-up. N-C-C News’ Shantelle Willock learned how the community and Native tribes are reacting.

Shantelle Willock: On a gloomy Sunday afternoon in May, Onondaga Lake Park is bursting with life. Dogs are taken for a leisurely stroll… Kids at the skate park roll up and down the concrete ramps… Tiny tots swing, slide, and sprint across the brightly colored playground… While others take a break and enjoy a sweet treat.

Grace Millet: Cotton candy ice cream, in an ice cream cup

Shantelle: Everyone is there to partake in a different activity, but all are brought together for one reason… fun at Onondaga Lake.

Ed Millet: We come out, play at the park, sometimes take a walk, so…

Grace: We got to see the gooses and go near them.

Ernest: I got my son out fishing today…

Maya Millet: Going fast!
Grace: Yeah, me and Maya were having a race.

Shantelle: Recreation is what brings the Millet family, Ernest Overend and many others to Onondaga Lake. And soon, there will be even more activities. Director of the county’s Office of Environment, Travis Glazier, says, that the Loop the Lake Trail and boat launch are just two of many recreational projects coming together within the next 5 years.

Travis Glazier: In addition, we have fishing assets, boat launches, water taxis, the inner harbor has been dredged.

Shantelle: There are some, however, who are concerned about these developing projects. Jeanne Shenandoah, of the Onondaga Nation, believes companies involved in the recreational projects are prioritizing revenue over water quality.

Jeanne Shenandoah: Such disrespect for water and for nature, I don’t think those people have that respect.

Shantelle: Respect for Onondaga Lake runs deep in the history of tribes in the Confederation. A Native of the Tuscarora Nation and expert in Native environmental studies, Neil Patterson, says the lake has a long history that begins with its use as a source for food and water.

Neil Patterson: It was a part of the operating ecosystem of this landscape. Later on in time, it became the sacred site of the Confederation of Nations.

Shantelle: Like Shenandoah, Patterson also believes the recreational projects are beginning too soon. He thinks it’s wrong to refer to the lake as a clean area, and says, if it were up to him, he’d focus on ensuring the lake is free of toxins.
Neil: The promotion of the lake as a restored gem, as a place now to recreate, ultimately is a self-serving one for the company.

Shantelle: Despite, having issues with the timing of the developing projects, Patterson does see long-term benefits that could come from increasing access and activity on the lake.

Neil: The more people that interact with the natural environment, the greater chance is that people will be willing to protect it.

Shantelle: And a protected lake is the ultimate vision for the future of Onondaga Lake. While there is existing disagreement, the Confederation of Nations and the state and county’s environmental departments share a common end-goal. To have a fully restored lake for all its plants, animals, and visitors to enjoy. Shantelle Willock… N-C-C News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)— On a gloomy Sunday afternoon, a father and son casted lines into Onondaga Lake and patiently waited for a bite—then reeled in, recast, and patiently waited again. Ernest Overend Jr. and his son Noah Overend have fished at several lakes in Central New York and despite the regulations on fish consumption at Onondaga Lake, they believe it’s the best spot for fishing in the area.

“The fish do get bigger here,” said Ernest. “[My son] has caught a couple of beauties.”

Andrea at her ice cream stand.
Andrea Siedlicki believes the new recreational projects will bring more visitors and boost business for her ice cream stand near the lake.
Photograph: © 2019 Shantelle Willock

Recreation brings a lot of visitors to Onondaga Lake, and there will be even more to do with the Loop the Lake Trail and boat launch coming up. Honeywell is funding these projects through an Environmental Benefit Project as part of an Onondaga Lake cleanup Consent Order.

Neil Patterson of the Tuscarora Nation and expert in Native environmental studies sees the importance of recreational activities but has concerns. He says that promoting Onondaga Lake as a restored area to be used for recreation is problematic and self-serving for companies like Honeywell.

“Ultimately, whatever message these for-profit industries and companies put out there, is to protect their bottom line,” he said.

Patterson has issues with the timing of the developing projects and believes it would be better to delay them. However, he does see long-term benefits that could come from increasing access and activity on the lake.

“The more people that interact with the natural environment, the greater chance, is that people would be willing to protect it,” he said.

The trail and boat launch aren’t the only recreational projects coming together. The county’s environmental director, Travis Glazier, says visitors can also expect fishing assets, water taxis, and access to the inner harbor area—all within the next to five years.

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Shantelle Willock

With a major in Broadcast & Digital Journalism and a double minor in Political Science and African American studies, I plan to use my studies and experience as an Afro-Latinx woman to aptly report on news globally and within marginalized communities.

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