Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - In a little over a month, Central New York will open up its gates for the 2013 New York State Fair.
Among the new features this year, will be an exhibit organizers say visitors shouldn’t miss: the transformation of Onondaga Lake.
The body of water in the heart of Onondaga County once held the dubious distinction of being one of the most polluted lakes in the US.
“That's the exciting transition point where we're at, is that we no longer have to look at it and be embarrassed or discuss what we're going to do, we now look back at what we have done and where we're going,” said Deputy Onondaga County Executive Matt Millea.
They cite the return of the Gar fish as evidence of recovery. The fish had not been in Onondaga Lake for decades.
"Because of what the county did at the treatment plant, we have less ammonia, much less phosphorus, we have a clearer lake. We can see instead of inches into the water, we can see feet into the water,” said Ken Lynch of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Construction on the exhibit in the Center of Progress Building will begin soon. The exhibit will feature 3,000 square feet of several exhibits taking visitors on a journey from the early years of Onondaga Lake right through to the current cleanup.
"It will be told in digital media, it will be told in posters, it will be told in physical facilities that young people and older, young spirited people will be able to participate in,” said SUNY ESF President Neil Murphy.
It isn’t just about cleaner water – but the improvements they say the cleanup has spurred, like an addition to the lake trail, a new boat launch that will one day be in place, and economic development at Destiny USA and the Inner Harbor.
"We're going to tell everybody at the State Fair, come back and visit us. This will be a great recreational and tourism resource for Central New York for generations to come once the cleanup efforts are done by 2018,” said Millea.
The formal cleanup of Onondaga Lake began in 2004. So far, 370,000 cubic yards of lake material have been removed and nearly 580 million gallons of water have been treated.
By the end of 2013, dredging is expected to be about halfway complete.