Syracuse should reconnect with its waterfront. This City was built around water, and we have miles and miles of creeks, canals, and lakefront where people can get in touch with Syracuse’s maritime side.
One way to make that happen is to just make our various waterfronts more accessible—give people public space next to the water, and they will use it.
But Syracuse should go farther and actually get people out on the water. We need more boats in this town.
Syracuse’s small waterways are perfect for kayaking. The Creekrats—a very good volunteer organization that helps clean and care for Onondaga Creek—know this, which is why they host Fun Floats where anybody can show up, borrow a kayak or canoe, and take a trip down the Creek the entire length of the City.
This is great, and we need more of it. In addition to kayaks and canoes, people should be tubing down the Creek. In addition to the Creekrats volunteer efforts, the City Parks department should be providing the public with small boats.
As Syracuse’s summers get hotter, people are going to need new ways to keep cool. Getting them floating down Onondaga Creek is a great place to start.
Car traffic to the State Fair and the Lake Amphitheater is famously terrible. That’s what happens when tens of thousands of people all try to drive to the same location. The only way to fix it is to give people more options for getting to those popular destinations.
Ferries would relieve that congestion, and they’d get people out onto Onondaga Lake. People going to concerts and the Fair could catch a ferry at the Inner Harbor, the Village of Liverpool, and Longbranch Park. They’d trade the hassle of traffic and parking for a leisurely sunset trip across the Lake.
The ice rink at Clinton Square is great because it recreates a traditional recreational use of the canal. The people who redesigned the square in 2001 had that iconic photograph in mind when they planned the public skating program. They wanted to give people “a sense of the canal.”
That’s fantastic—let’s do more.
One of the other ways that Syracuse residents used to interact with the canal was by boarding the floating attractions, museums, and shops that travelled from town to town along the canal. If we make more of NYSDOT’s planned ‘canal district’ and actually rewater the canal between Franklin and Montgomery Streets, there should absolutely be boats in that water for people to board.
The Erie Canal Museum could run a historic packet boat, restaurants could put outdoor seating on a stationary barge, local artists could set up pop up retail shops. There are plenty of attractions that would get people onto boats, and that would reconnect them with the canal.
In order to really activate Syracuse’s waterfront, we need more programming. Kayaking, tubing, ferries, floating attractions, whatever. Just provide people with ways to get out on the water, and they will do it.