Volunteers Help Create Wetland Habitat for Onondaga Lake Wildlife Visitors

Jul 29, 2019

Volunteers with Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps plant some of thousands of native plants intended to create habitat for wildlife along the shoreline.
Credit Kevin Fitzpatrick/WAER News

Volunteers gathered at the southeastern shore of Onondaga Lake on Saturday to plant a variety of native plants at the mouth of Harbor Brook. The area of lakeshore is being reinvigorated as wetland habitat for local wildlife by the Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps.

“There all herbaceous plants and they’re proportioned based on how deep the water is proposed to be in the wetland,” says Steve Mooney, volunteer leader of the planting project.  “There’s a deep emergent zone where there some pond lilies and duck potato going in, and then there’s a shallow emergent zone where we have some joe-pye weed and spartina.  Then there’s a middle zone that has some milk weeds.” 

Mooney is an employee of O’Brien and Gere, an environmental engineering firm which has overseen several rehabilitation projects along the lakeshore. He says that after the 10,000 or so plants have been put in the ground in the new wetland, animals of all stripes will soon call the place home.

“This emergent marsh will provide refuge for wildlife that want to utilize the lake but don’t particularly inhabit the lake.  We’re going to have some rock piles and brush piles put up for habitat that will serve as cover from song birds (and) small mammals.  The top of the piles will serve as basking areas for turtles and snakes.”

This area laid bare by clean-up of the lake bed and waters is now being put back to a more natural state, as part of the restoration efforts.
Credit Kevin Fitzpatrick/WAER News

The restoration of the lakeshore wetlands is an ongoing project by the Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps spanning seven years. Sue Potrikus can’t overstate the value of volunteer labor for the lake and surrounding community.

“This is such a valuable resource in our community.  With the lake cleanup and having dredged, capped and restored 90 acres of wetlands, and planted over 1.1 million plants over the last 6-7 years, it’s kind of outstanding.  And these volunteers, many of whom have been here before, have planted hundreds if not thousands of plants.”

The Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps holds monthly restoration and wildlife education events. Follow them online at Facebook or Instagram @OnondagaLakeCC to learn about or to RSVP for their next event.