Restoring Syracuse's Onondaga Lake Shoreline and Tributaries
January 11, 2017
Fifty-one volunteers, including families from around Central New York and local Girl Scouts, gathered along the western shoreline of Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, N.Y., on May 16, 2015, a picture perfect Saturday, to plant 1,250 native plants and build 24 bird boxes that will serve as new homes for the area’s birds.
The effort is one of many from the Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps, (“Corps”) an organization created through the partnership of Audubon, Central New York engineering firms, and Honeywell in 2012 to help the community take an active role in creating a sustainable Onondaga Lake watershed. Honeywell is one of the parties responsible for the cleanup of Onondaga Lake pursuant to an agreement with New York State regulators. Thanks to efforts by Honeywell and Onondaga County, the cleanup is making terrific progress; water quality is the best it has been in 100 years and the County recently announced research that says the lake is clean enough to swim in.
“I loved helping today. We got to build homes for birds and plant wetland plants for animals to use,” said Abby Bustin, a sixth-grade student at Gillette Road Middle School. “I know that the work my family did today is giving nature a helping hand, and I loved it.”
The Corps is now an ever growing organization of community volunteers who are contributing to restoration projects that are creating or improving wildlife habitat in the lake’s watershed. It seeks to inspire future environmental stewards through a hands-on, experience-based program. Since creation of the group, Corps volunteers have planted more than 4,500 native plants, trees, and shrubs, and contributed to the improvement of 44 acres of wetlands and nearby areas that are now home to 320,500 native plants and more than 110 species of fish, birds, and mammals. They also helped the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry professors and students identify nearly 450 species, including several rare and unique species.
“We brought our family to participate in the Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps event because we want to teach our kids to appreciate our surroundings and the local environment,” said Julie Biondolillo, of Pennellville, N.Y., at an event on July 19, 2014. “We also want our children to learn how to take care of and preserve the environment, to learn the work that goes into that.”
2015 Environmental Champions
Recently, the Corps, which now has more than 560 volunteers, won a 2015 Environmental Champion Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The award, presented annually, honors individuals, businesses and organizations that have contributed significantly to improving the environment and protecting public health.
“The EPA is thrilled to honor the work of these environmental trailblazers,” said Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “These New Yorkers work tirelessly to protect human health and the environment, inspiring us all to strive for a more sustainable future.”
“The Environmental Champion Award is the highest recognition presented to the public by the EPA, and we’re extremely proud and deeply honored that the Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps has been selected for this award,” said Erin Crotty, executive director of Audubon New York. “We know that where birds thrive, people prosper and the Corps is a successful model of public, private, and community partnership for the benefit of birds, other wildlife, Onondaga Lake’s communities, and people. This distinguished recognition is further validation that innovative partnerships are the key to addressing our most pressing conservation challenges. Congratulations to Montezuma Audubon Center, Honeywell, O’Brien & Gere, Parsons, Onondaga Audubon Society, and everyone who has made this success possible – most notably the hundreds of Corps volunteers.”