Oswego Seeks Vision For Waterfront Improvements

Nearly 100 people turned out Monday night to share their vision on how to improve Oswego's waterfront.

Nearly 100 people turned out Monday night to share their vision on how to improve Oswego's waterfront.

Nearly 100 people turned out Monday night to share their vision on how to improve Oswego's waterfront.
Nearly 100 people turned out Monday night to share their vision on how to improve Oswego’s waterfront.

OSWEGO, NY – Nearly 100 people packed the ballroom at the McCrobie Building on Monday night to hear potential upgrades to the Port City’s waterfront.

Several members of the public expressed their vision of what the waterfront should be in the future. Suggestions ranged from a beach to infrastructure improvements to activities and more.

Mercedes Niess, center, shares her thoughts on what needs to be done to enhance the Port City's waterfront.
Mercedes Niess, center, shares her thoughts on what needs to be done to enhance the Port City’s waterfront.

The planning team, headed by the Community Development Office and Edgewater Resources, facilitated the first step in a community outreach process that shares ideas from other waterfronts and gather local feedback on what is working on the Oswego waterfront, what needs to be improved, and what the future of Oswego’s waterfront should look like, Justin Rudgick, community development director, explained.

“Oswego is a waterfront community that doesn’t behave like one,” Greg Wygant of Edgewater Resources said.

He said his company was there to help Oswego come up with a viable action plan to improve its waterfront.

Edgewater wasn’t there to tell them what to do; they wanted to hear from the residents, he said.

“We want you to tell us what works, what doesn’t work. We want to help you improve and make your waterfront the best it can be,” he said.

He added that residents should support the efforts to create a national marine sanctuary on Lake Ontario and the push to make Fort Ontario – Safe Haven a national park.

Paul Stewart, in blue, suggests was to improve the waterfront as neighborhoods.
Paul Stewart, in blue, suggests was to improve the waterfront as neighborhoods.

It would make a huge economic boon for the entire area, he pointed out.

Members of the crowd offered various comments and suggestions.

The water is Oswego’s greatest resource and should be highlighted more, according to resident Dave Hamm.

“If you can’t see the water, you can’t sell the water,” he said. “Anything in the way is bad.”

Former First Ward Councilor Fran Enwright suggested development like in places such as Clayton and other nearby waterfront communities.

“You have several hundred slips there and when you walk through the community you see bed and breakfasts, pubs and restaurants. That’s a vision I could see Oswego going along that way,” he said.

While attracting tourists would be good for the local economy, another resident pointed out that any enhancements to the waterfront should be done first with the residents, the people who live her 24/7, in mind.

Another said Oswego should be a nice town that attracts some tourism.

Mercedes Niess, director of the Maritime Museum, noted that Oswego has a great deal to offer.

Following the presentation, participants were asked to place green dots on photos of Oswego's and other cities' waterfronts to indicate what they like about that particular waterfront.
Following the presentation, participants were asked to place green dots on photos of Oswego’s and other cities’ waterfronts to indicate what they like about that particular waterfront.

“Who are we trying to attract? Yes, we want tourists. We want the college folks to live here. We want them to choose to live here. Decades ago, there was Rosemary Nesbitt, Dick Pfund, Will Shum (who all worked to better the city) – they came in and said, ‘wow, look at this jewel!’ So it’s not just about attracting tourists,” she said. “It’s a broader picture. It’s about the people who will take their time, their energy and put it into their community.”

Councilor John Gosek added that there should be more of an emphasis on local history such as the Native Americans as well.

The city’s rich history “hasn’t been promoted properly,” he said.

One resident pointed out that there a several small groups and organizations doing things for the city. There should be more coordination, they added.

Others pointed out that better signage was needed to let people know what Oswego has to offer and that more needs to be offered during the winter months to attract people.

Monday night was just the first of several meetings and planning.

Another meeting will be held next month to consider data from Monday. That will be followed by an October meting to refine the ideas and suggestions.

In November, a draft consensus plan meeting will be scheduled.

That would lead to implementation of a plan.


  1. If you want tourist then the city needs to rethink how they treat visitors. It might be time to revisit the open container law and have areas that extend from the marina to downtown where that law is lifted. (When this law was put in place Floyd Kunswiler (sp) said it would only be used to clean up the problems in the parks and not to harass people – he lied). It might be a nice idea to stop with the road blocks (DWI, registration,inspection) whenever there is a event going on. Nothing says “Welcome” to Oswego than having to go through a roadblock. Gives you that warm fuzzy feeling! The same thing in the harbor….do we really need the Sheriff, Coast Guard and the City Police/fire riding every ones back? Look at how the # of boats has dropped off at Harborfest the last 10 years.

    The attitude at City Hall will have to change before we can ever hope to become a tourist destination.

  2. Old Timer….Your vision of “Party Town USA” for the tourists and yourself at the expense of public safety for the other residents who may not feel a need to enjoy the waterfront without an alcohlic beverage in hand seems somewhat self serving. As for the road blocks, if it wasn’t for intoxicated drunks and drugdealers, they wouldn’t be necesscary.

  3. Old Timer…I have a question for you. How does your request for alcohol tolerance differ from proclaiming all city parks and the marina area as “designated smoking areas” for those who wish to light up? And don’t give me the second hand smoke argument. When your car slams into mine, I feel the effects too.

  4. Oswego is a rare jewel without a crown. The fact that there isn’t a single public beach with real access is a shame. Promoting boating, fishing – all fantastic. If Fort Ontario receives its designation as a national park – it will need to open its eyes to why people visit places. Restaurants (Laurie and Will O’Brien have done a spectacular job reviving a building on First Street, creating jobs, and offering stunning views!), interesting places to visit, natural beauty, souvenirs. There is so much negativity there, though, that’s it is often difficult for people who live there to see what a magnificent opportunity there is to *change* and be great again. Sure, the river and the lake were the driving forces behind making the city great in the first place (the mills). Oswego has a future if a positive updraft can be created. I love that the new mayor has scored funds to help this happen. Drinking and drugs don’t need to be a part of the narrative moving forward. But attractions – historical markers and monuments, activities that are family friendly – and multi-family friendly – are. Think about posts you see on social media. Which places make you say, “man, I really want to go there next year with my family?” THOSE are the things Oswego should focus on for the benefit of future generations.

  5. Before you ‘wish’ for a beach ask the County why they got out of the beach business. Takes a lot of money to own a beach and the return is very small.
    Lester – you completely missed my point. I didn’t say turn the city into party town. People always wonder why Oswego isn’t like Alex Bay and Clayton. The difference is those areas WANT the business. Oswego wants you to get off their lawn. We have Harborfest for 4 days and people have a fit about it. The City only has about 2 hours worth of sites to visit, if you want them to stay longer you will need a night life. We had one at one time but no longer. We have no theatre for shows, no event center for concerts. We have a speedway that brings in a lot of outside dollars and everybody complains about the noise a few nights a year We have a City that wants tourist dollars but not the tourist that bring those dollars.

  6. About every 5 to 7 years Oswego gets on a kick about the waterfront. Take a look @ Wright’s Landing and Breitbeck park, absolutely beautiful. Believe it or not Oswego, has come along way in the last 4 decades. The new mayor offers a youthful insight into the future and has accomplished a great deal in 8 months. The negative culture we have become accustomed to is lifting and people have been receptive to this obvious change for the better. The same outspoken complainers are a constant, however even they appear with a smile once in a while now!

  7. Well, now that the Port Authority(who’s trying to get rid of union jobs right now) blocks off pretty much all access to the lake on the east side, then you’re limited on where you’re going to utilize the waterfront to the west side of the bridge.

  8. Any revitalization efforts to improve the Oswego waterfront must be one that’s comprehensive, long-term (10-20 yrs), sustainable and one that builds alliances between residents, businesses and organizations. Otherwise, the whole process and efforts to improve and enhance the Port City’s waterfront becomes fragmented and a patch-work of projects that do nothing to build a more cohesive community and business environment. I wish my former hometown much success in its efforts to make Oswego a better place to live, work and play.

  9. Thank you Lester you have said exactly what I am thinking ! Old Timer – you don’t need to have an alcoholic beverage in hand to have a good time.
    I am all for the open container law for someone that lives close to the marina – I don’t want drunks walking through my neighborhood!

  10. Old Timer – there is a theatre – at SUNY Oswego. If you haven’t enjoyed a show at Waterman Theatre, it’s your loss! What about community theatre – does it still exist ? What is there to do for a family – band together. Instead of B*tching about what *isn’t* — take some of the empty retail space — and CREATE demand! People peeing all over the place and leaving trash ? I’d be annoyed by that too. And it’s driven by lack of facilities and too much booze-driven entertainment. Oswego doesn’t have to be the drunk capital of NY State. Has anyone ever done a survey of what Oswego residents LOVE and how the community is perceived by the outside world ? Actual data points from hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people – to get a real idea of what the vision should be?

  11. I agree with Go 4 It. The plan needs to be a coordinated effort. I spoke with the mayor when he had his DD coffee open meeting. As a 30 yr. homeowner in Scriba, and boating that long, my husband and I are disheartened with the port area. We have travelled east and west on the Erie Canal. There are some beautiful, thriving ports out there that are not only encouraging boaters, but residents and other visitors. Planners need to visit Fairport, Tonawanda,or Waterford. And there are many others! Oswego is the first port boaters visit upon entering the canal system. It is the last port at the end of their trip. We need to “wow” boaters! Make them want to spend an extra day or so. That’s not happening now. Bathrooms need to be upgraded. Signage needs to be visible. Include phone numbers for local restaurants and taxi service. Post a bus schedule. Post a monthly calendar of events. Some ports have restaurants that will send a driver to the port, pick up the customers, bring them to the restaurant, and drive them back. Too bad the PC store closed years ago. Now boaters either have to walk to Big M or take a bus to Walmart. How about a bait and tackle shop? How about a shop that has basic parts and items boaters might need to do minor repairs? How about a gas dock that doesn’t inflate the price? I didn’t know about Monday’s meeting, or I would have gone. When is September’s meeting?

  12. Rosemarie, I think that you have said it better than anyone. Because you have been at other ports you know what is need and appreciated.
    I wish i could tell you when the September meeting is. Your information is just was the “Planners” need to hear. I am not a boater but I do live in Oswego and I do care about the fall or rise of the City. As it stands right now, if the waterfront is not properly utilized I am afraid we will continue to fall and fail as a beautiful city.

  13. Just to be clear . . . Are we talking about the port of Oswego here or Oswego’s waterfront?
    The September, October, November and January meetings are all “T B A”

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