Preparing for a public beach on former most polluted lake in America

Willow Bay park.


nondaga County is making plans for a public beach on the shore of the lake that was once known as the most polluted in America.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney presented her budget for the coming year Friday afternoon. The Capital Improvement Plan points to the progress of Onondaga Lake cleanup as a reason to start improving the Willow Bay section of the park which sits on the northwesterly shoreline toward the bridge over the Seneca River.

The proposed $2.7 million dollar improvement of the Willow Bay would include improved parking, replace picnic pavillions and rebuilt trails.

The pitch to the legislature to support this funding includes the idea that Willow Bay could be a public beach. "these improvements will help to advance that long term objective by ensuring that the trails, pavillions and parking facilities are up to modern standards for a public bathing beach," said the report.

With the lake's dirty reputation, the idea is getting mixed reviews. Katie Newton described a negative experience while walking in Onondaga Park.

"I don't think I'd want to swim in it anytime soon because I fell in it when I was on my crew team and it was pretty gross," says Newton.

But Stuart Goom expressed interest in the idea while doing his evening exercise.

"I would love that. It's a great lake. I think it would great to see people swimming in the lake. I certainly would like to take advantage of it as well," says Goom.

The lengthy clean up of Onondaga Lake has now entered what may be a final phase which includes dredging part of the lake bottom that is most contaminated from industrial waste.

It is not yet known whether the Onondaga County Legislature will approve this section of the Capital Improvement Plan. The spending of the $2.7 million to make the park improvements would be spread over three years from 2013 through 2015.