Hundreds of community members cheered on the shores of Onondaga Lake Wednesday as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner, members of the public, local elected and Onondaga County officials, and Honeywell leaders jumped into Onondaga Lake. The symbolic swim represented the ongoing return of Onondaga Lake as a community asset. The event was organized by Believe in Syracuse, a nonprofit organization that promotes the positive features of the Greater Syracuse area and cultivates connections and civic engagement within the community.
“It’s amazing to think back over 20 years to my eighth-grade science class, where we would hypothesize ways to clean Onondaga Lake,” said Diane Gilberti Recor, of Liverpool. “Never did I believe I would be standing on the shore of the lake to witness over 50 people willingly, and with such optimism, jumping into the lake.”
“Believe in Syracuse is all about supporting projects that help the Syracuse area evolve and become a better place,” said John DeSantis, President of Believe in Syracuse. “The work Honeywell, Onondaga County, the DEC and others are doing to dramatically improve Onondaga Lake is easily one of the most shining examples of how Syracuse is on the rise.”
According to an April 15 report by the Upstate Freshwater Institute, “Water quality conditions in the northern two-thirds of the lake are now suitable for swimming.” The report was issued by Onondaga County’s Department of Water Environment Protection.
“I know the 400 people who are part of our team are ‘all in.’ We’re so proud to be here,” said Tom Rhoads, Commissioner of the Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection. “This is a community effort. All of their contributions and perspectives continue to be important as we see this jewel become cleaner and better, and a much more remarkable asset for Central New York.”
“Today is an extraordinary day,” said Neil Murphy, former President of SUNY-ESF. “Onondaga Lake is in incredible shape, which is the culmination of work done by Onondaga County and Honeywell. The water quality is safe for swimming and we have a diverse fishery – it’s an extraordinary asset and we have to celebrate it.”
“The swim is a testament to Onondaga County’s work, which has improved water quality to the best it’s been in more than 100 years,” said John McAuliffe, Honeywell Syracuse Program Director. “The county programs and initiatives have been critical to this success. The community’s pride and passion have helped fuel this progress and are being rewarded as the lake becomes a healthy, sustainable asset for generations to come.”
In an October 2014 report, the DEC said, “Public bathing and other recreation use are fully supported although currently there are no designated public beaches on the lake. ”Swimming from shore has been banned in Onondaga Lake since 1940. The ban continues because there is no public beach.
Onondaga County’s 2014-2019 capital improvement plan says that “as Onondaga Lake continues to recover from its industrial past, Willow Bay is viewed as a potential area for a public swimming beach.”
For more information on the Onondaga Lake cleanup, please visit www.lakecleanup.com.