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Port of Oswego says expansion will not block access to shoreline

Gino Geruntino
Lake Ontario seen from a small parking area on Oswego's eastern shoreline.

The Port of Oswego has spent the summer replacing rail lines and creating a rail yard east of its main site in Oswego to help the facility continue its planned expansion. But the project has some Oswego residents worried that those changes could prevent them from visiting a stretch of shoreline along Lake Ontario that has been accessible for years.

Rocco Saya created a Facebook page to gather supporters of an openly accessible shoreline. He says the Port of Oswego has not fully communicated its intentions for the area with citizens.

“I had conversation with the director and he certainly was cordial, but at the end of the day, he couldn’t give me any assurances that the area wouldn’t be fenced off and become inaccessible by Oswego citizens,” Saya explained.

Saya says residents use the shoreline for everything from a splash in the water to taking photos of sunsets.

He also says he has no problem with the port making changes to increase its productivity and generate more revenue, but that the land, which is privately owned by the facility, should still remain open to the public.

“We’re all for progress; Oswego needs jobs,” Saya said. “Everybody has to feed their family. But at the same time, I’m wondering how much thought was put into this project in regards to also making it publicly accessible.”

Terry Hammill, board chairman of the Port of Oswego Authority, says the port wants to be a good neighbor to the city, and does not currently have plans to restrict access to the shoreline if it doesn't have to.

"Our intent is not to deny access to the pleasantries of sitting along the water and enjoying it,” Hammill said. “That's one of the benefits we have as a port city. We have a water environment."

But Hammill warns that the area could be blocked off if people do destructive things like block the rail tracks or climb on trains, which he says have been done before. There have also been alleged cases of people going down to the shore and doing drugs.

Hammill says anyone creating mischief that could disrupt the port’s business will be caught on the facility’s surveillance camera system.

“The entire area is continually and 24 hours a day and under surveillance,” Hammill said. “And the surveillance is monitored by police agencies in the whole area. And if there is destructive behavior, intentional or otherwise, it will all be captured on tape, which is required by Homeland Security.”