Speak Up For Your Community

Citizen are encouraged to attend the 2020 Vision workshops to be held at the McCrobie Building, Lake Street, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday and speak up for your community.

In 2002-2003 the Oswego community went through the 2020 Vision process and developed the 2020 Vision Plan adopted by the city in 2003. At that time survey results of those participating stated that one element, the waterfront, was a valuable asset and an opportunity for tourism and economic development.

The H. Lee White Marine Museum, which has been in existence for almost 29 years has taken this to heart. We have informally and formally undergone strategic planning and evaluation processes on a regular basis.  We partner with SUNY Oswego, area museums, businesses and other organizations often to provide educational and recreational activities for the local community and outside visitors.

In addition, we share the west pier, the “Historic Maritime District” with two other maritime organizations as well as our commercial neighbors. A recent improvement to the waterfront neighborhood has been the addition of a maritime mural and the painting of the Derrick Boat to the NYS canal blue and gold colors. Earlier this summer we hosted, with local business and government, a large-scale tall ship festival. The Festival of Sail brought 6,000 visitors to the west pier.

Over the past year and a half, with the encouragement of the Port of Oswego Authority, we have begun an evaluation process working towards the consolidation of the Museum, the Oswego Maritime Foundation and the Maritime Alliance. We are using a model from another successful institution, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Our ultimate goal is a consolidated Maritime Center on the harbor.

I relay this information to highlight the process of what it takes to change and grow an institution, a business and a community.  In this day and age, if you are not moving forward you are sliding backwards. We can no longer accept “business as usual” if we want our city to thrive.

Today, we have an opportunity to mold the vision and future of this city. Once the process is complete and we have the reports, we need a buy-in and commitment of our leaders: that is our businesses, not-for-profits and political leaders.

Numerous communities have reinvented themselves or are in the process of doing so. In some cases they do not have the resources we have here in Oswego but had support and direction from their leaders to still move forward. Towns and cities such as Auburn NY, Cumberland MD, Keene NH, Paducah, KY…larger cities such as Buffalo and Syracuse are undergoing a transformation.

It is not impossible! We are no exception!

JOBS – Realistically, new manufacturing jobs will be realized on a limited basis at best. We must change with the times and look beyond traditional avenues of employment.

So what do we already have to work with?

Cultural Tourism as an Industry –

Numerous studies have documented the economic benefits of cultural tourism.

While tourism is not the total solution to a thriving community, it is a viable cushion, regularly bringing outside revenue to our city coffers.

Quality of Life – cultural tourism celebrates and enhances the quality of life in a community.

How do we attract outside businesses, industry, educators, college professors or medical people to invest in and relocate to Oswego?

In addition, I suggest we work and partner even more closely with the State University at Oswego, Cayuga Community College and Oswego Health. What is their vision for their respective institutions?

How does our community meet the needs of their employees?

What sort of Quality of Life do they expect from a community in which they CHOOSE to live in? I emphasize the word choose. How many of these employees currently live outside the city and even our county and why?

Welcoming these new Oswegonians will benefit all of us, through property taxes, sales taxes, community involvement and much more.

Ironically, it is our not-for-profits that are expanding and growing. This is not an accident. We have seen the expansion of the State University of Oswego, the Oswego Public Library, the Oswego Hospital and Oswego Health, the Salvation Army and the recently announced St. Luke’s expansion project.

How can we use this movement to make our community more viable?

Make no mistake, none of this can happen without support, investment and vision from our city, community development and our leaders.

At the 2003, 2020 Vision brainstorming, participants were put through a comparison and evaluation process. Images of city streetscapes with intact historic buildings repeatedly were selected as more desirable that the one-story cinder block boxes and strip mall look. Slides were shown of a community in the southwest that actually created a historic downtown cityscape to create the feel and look of a historic community…that did not even exist. We already have such a place.

We need to be concerned and outraged about the destruction, demolition and loss of our historic footprint, downtown and beyond.

The collapse of St. Louis Church was avoidable and should not be allowed to happen again. The loss of that building and the potential of what adaptive reuse of a historic structure could have given our community are immeasurable. We cannot allow another building to fall due to such neglect and lack of vision.

I urge every citizen to attend the 2020 Vision workshops to be held at the McCrobie Building, Lake Street,  scheduled for Wednesday Oct. 13 at 5 p.m. and Thursday Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. and speak up for your community.

Mercedes Niess
Executive Director
H. Lee White Marine Museum