Large Onondaga Lake exhibit announced for the State Fair

Visitors to the New York State Fair this summer will learn about the past, present and future of Onondaga Lake.

There are 12 parts to the 3,000 square foot exhibit, which takes up an entire wing of the Center of Progress building.

The interactive exhibit called "Onondaga Lake: A Fresh Gateway to a {<}I{>} new {<}/i{>} New York" takes fairgoers back to the lake's beginning, showcasing the role the native Onondagas played in the land's history. It was their ancestral grounds.

Visitors will get a close-up and hands-on look at the clean-up process, and see the fish species that have returned to the lake since those efforts began. Visitors will watch those fish swim in aquariums.

The exhibit will teach fairgoers how local efforts have brought wild wildlife species back, and how they've stirred economic growth around the lake fueling more opportunities across Central New York.

"We're going to have the story told in as many different mediums as we possibly can," says Neil Murphy, President of State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. "It will be told in digital media, told in posters, told in physical facilities that young people and older-spirited young people will be able to participate in."

More than 40 years ago, Murphy measured the mercury in the lake, wading in the water to take samples.

"Back in 1969 and 1970 at times in August, I literally would fall ill being on the lake. I have to tell you I've been on the lake in the last year and it's an extraordinarily re-invigorating experience," he says. "This exhibit will tell the pathway, tell the story about the pathway, from those dark days, the impairment of this asset, all the way up to its development."

Many say the timeline of the lake's transformation is a testament to how far it's come. Onondaga Lake is no longer the most polluted lake in the nation. Deputy County Executive Matt Millea says we should be proud of our progress. The exhibit is a tool to teach others the lessons we have learned.

"We no longer have to look at it and be embarrassed and discuss what we're going to do. We now look back and talk about what we have done and where we're going," Millea says.

The State Fair opens August 22 and runs through September 2.