Public Swimming at an Onondaga Lake Beach? How Feasible & How Desirable is it?

Jan 28, 2019

People at Onondaga Lake Park for boating event. Would residents use a beach on the lake?
Credit ongov.net/environment

Onondaga County is looking to residents for help in determining the feasibility of a beach and swimming area on Onondaga Lake.  The county is using grant money to conduct an in-depth study using public input gathered through surveys, and from meetings like one being held tomorrow evening at Destiny USA. 


Director of community engagement at FOCUS Greater Syracuse Frank Moses says past studies have shown an interest in swimming. 

"There was a question said in a 2012 report, 'How would you rank having a public swimming area on Onondaga Lake?' And over 50% of the 1,073 folks that responded said it was either, 'Very important,' or 'Important.' 

Moses says a more recent survey showed swimming ranked 5th as “very desirable” out of 16 activities on the lake.

Onondaga Lake Beach Meeting: Destiny Skydeck, Tues 1/29, 5:00 - 7:00 pm

Director of the county’s Office of Environment Travis Glazier says now they have to look at the practical implications of this type of waterfront development.

"Are there infrastructure constraints that would need to be taken into consideration? What would the cost  be to put that in there? What sort of operations and maintenance considerations in the long term investment would the county have to go through?"

The county has hired engineering firm Barton and Loguidice to conduct the study.  Glazier says they’re looking at an area along the northeast shoreline from the Butterfly Garden off Onondaga Lake Parkway to the Seneca Outlet in the Park.

"Is there access via roadway or parking? What is the wave action like there? Is this a really choppy area or is this a cover? Is this too constrained? There are certain areas where it's very thin, it's very close to the trail and you want to have separation from the trail."

(Onondaga County opinion Survey on Onondaga Lake Beach, access HERE)

Glazier says the design may or may not include a bath house, depending on need, size, infrastructure, and cost.  The study will also conduct a market analysis of beach-related assets in the area, and proximity to each.  Meanwhile, he knows there’s still a lot of skepticism about water conditions, even 20 years and three quarters of a billion dollars after cleanup began. 

"This is yet another opportunity for us to engage and to hopefully help people understand that progress has been made, that water quality is in line with other water bodies; even better than other water bodies."

Glazier says the goal is to have the feasibility study completed by year’s end, at which time it will be presented to lawmakers. Until then, he says there will be a number of outreach efforts.  Tuesday evening’s meeting runs from 5 to 7 p.m. on the Destiny USA Skydeck, with a presentation at 5:30.