Sometimes I let too much time go by between my visits to the shores of Onondaga Lake or the winding creek that feeds it. My view, you see, is that the body of water smack dab in the middle of New York State has lots going for it. Reputation be damned.
My fellow Syracusans know the history. Here’s a short primer for the rest of the world:
For too many decades, a big chemical plant used the waters of Onondaga Lake as its toilet. Many dangerous things were dumped. The water was poisoned. The company went belly up in the ’80s, but the damage had been badly done by then.
A cleanup was ordered. Studies were done. The Army Corps of Engineers offered a plan. Another big company was hired to pump stuff back out of the lake. The budget is a cool $1 billion. People who lived in neighborhoods have complained about the stink that comes from the pipeline used to transport the chemicals. Now that was pollution.
Scientists say the cleanup is working.
My eyes and nose agree. I see plenty of wildlife on my walks along the shore. I smell not a thing.
The sun was out yesterday morning. The temperature on my car dashboard read 32 degrees on this Nov. 13.
I drove to three of my favorite waterfront spots and walked. I wasn’t the only one there, but close.
I snapped liberally with my iPhone.
I knew I wanted to share Syracuse’s natural wealth. It’s not a boardwalk on the Atlantic or a pier on the Pacific. But it’s quite close to being a link of trails that stretches a good bit more than 10 miles. And the major components are open, free of admission, and ready to lift the spirit.
My first stop is Onondaga Lake Park.
Located in the suburb of Liverpool (repeat after me, Beatles fans, not that Liverpool), the park includes a long trail that follows the eastern shore of the lake for five or so miles. You can park by the Salt Museum, walk past the Onondaga Lake Yacht Club, and travel to the Willow Bay portion of the park. In warmer months, there’s a special path for bikers and rollerbladers. It’s a busy stretch. Next week, that roadway welcomes cars for the annual Lights on the Lake. Displays will entertain visitors through the New Year.
On this day, the stark, leaf-barren trees outline the gray waters.
My second stop is Destiny USA. The big Syracuse mall is adjacent to the spot where Onondaga Creek spills into the lake.
You can park in the far reaches of a satellite lot, walk under a bridge and follow the final mile or so of the Creekwalk.
To the right sits the shopping behemoth. To the left runs the creek. It is a snapshot of where-city-meets-nature.
You must pass under a second bridge to reach the end.The big, bold lake sits in front of you. If you look to the right, you’ll spot Onondaga Lake Park and its walkway. Soon, officials say, a path will connect these two walkways. I look forward to that day.
My third stop is the Syracuse Inner Harbor.
It’s a pretty spot that politicians really want developed. Someday, it could host restaurants, hotels, other commerce, housing units. It could be an economic engine that links downtown, reachable by foot along the Creekwalk in one direction, and Destiny USA, along the walk in the other.
Now, though, boats are welcome to dock, alongside a lawn.
There’s a single building, with a sign that promises it as a great spot to book for parties. I’ve never seen a soul inside.
There’s a small, white canopy that marks the cement steps of an amphitheater.
There used to be a weekly music party there. I always felt like the stage and seating area are both too small to be truly significant. Organizers cited less expenses elsewhere and didn’t bring it back. The lawn held concerts, too, and even a bustling edition of the New York State Blues Festival. It’s been quiet of late, though.
But a Central New York developer has announced plans to build and bolster the harbor. Governor Andrew Cuomo, in fact, announced the coming of a new hotel with great enthusiasm in October.
The natural beauty, though, is ready to be enjoyed, appreciated and admired, right here, right now.
Do you have a getaway spot that you think deserves more credit?