by Wendy Gonyea
The northwestern shore on Onondaga Lake reveals evidence of some of the worst pollution to our ancestral lands. On a recent visit there with scientist Ed Michelanko, of the Onondaga Lake Partnership, a group of Onondagas hiked to the shore line. We found it to be a soft spongy like area where remnants of the soda ash dumping still lie. We added our tracks to those of deer and other life continuing to survive in this area.
The entire parking area, near the NYS Fairgrounds, is on top of layers of calcium carbonate, a white chalky like substance. We hiked through fields and wooded areas where shrubs and medicine plants have grown up, over the waste area. We saw strawberries, grasses, shrubs, birch trees all working to recover or reclaim the area. It was a bittersweet reminder of the power of the plant life to push through the interferences that could be their demise, but they refuse to let it be so.
Michelanko cautioned us not to eat the strawberries. But if the deer or other animals eat the berries, to what extent might they be affected? So, it is a dilemma, that medicine will grow over the waste beds but we don’t know if it is safe to use. We came away with a tempered hope for this shoreline. Ed Michelanko said nature will eventually reclaim the area, a hundred or two hundred years from now. It is a promising thought in the long road to restoration of Onondaga Lake and its shoreline, life, and us.