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Public wants park space at Onondaga Lake

Central New Yorkers want a public park available to everyone along Onondaga Lake. That was the upshot from the latest survey on the future of what was once the most polluted lake in the nation.

Onondaga County commissioned the $20,000 study of central New York residents' hopes and dreams for Onondaga Lake. The organization FOCUS Greater Syracuse conducted the study. Spokeswoman Jennifer Creighton says the idea of commercial development took a back seat to creating an area everyone can enjoy.

"The public wants the lake accessible. They want to enjoy the lake; they want to experience the lake. They paid for much of the clean up through their taxes. They want to enjoy it," said Creighton.

Onondaga County's Deputy County Executive Matt Millea says the county's plans for the lake are in line with that view.  For example the Loop the Lake trail is making process.

"We'll be right at the State Fair at the end of 2013. We'll have that new section finished," said Millea. "Then we have to wait for the Honeywell clean up process to go through it's complete cycle and have that site restored by Honeywell.  Then we'll be right at the CSX rail line at State Fair Boulevard and at that point 2017-1018 we'll see that railroad spanned and we'll be at the Inner Harbor."

But Millea says there is still room for some private development on the property that circles the lake.

"We've got the inner harbor for private development, but let's keep the lake for public space. But as parkland, there are certainly opportunities for amenities to support a parkland infrastructure," said Millea.

One thing that's not in the survey of 1,100 people - a clamoring for a beach along the lake.  But Millea says that still may be a future step in lake development.   
"The water is safe to swim in right now. But the issue is how do we get the public convinced that we're through the reclamation of this resource and we've got this opportunity to get back to this beach on the North Shore," Millea said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.