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.
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.
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.
“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.