Liverpool There’s a battle brewing at Ste. Marie Among the Iroquois, and it’s not a reenactment.
Onondaga County Parks Commissioner Bill Lansley announced Sept. 1 that part of Ste. Marie would be converted into office space for the Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District (OCSWCD).
“It’ll definitely be by late winter or early spring. Provisions are being made right now for us to occupy the building,” said Mark Burger, executive director of the OCSWCD. “And we’re only occupying a small portion. The day-to-day activities of the facility as a whole will not be impacted.”
Still, Ste. Marie has been closed since November; no school tours meander its halls, and no displays extoll the virtues of the Iroquois way of life. County officials say the closing is necessary to prepare for the conversion; volunteers disagree and say that they’ve been dismissed in favor of a political agenda that has little to do with the historical, educational and recreational mission of the former French fort.
It doesn’t set a good precedent for the two agencies that will eventually share a home, if not a mission. Ste. Marie highlights the history of the former Jesuit mission on Onondaga Lake. OCSWCD, meanwhile, which will ultimately take over about half of the second floor of the visitors’ center, focuses on more environmental concerns.
“We do nonprofit pollution prevention,” Burger said. “For our agricultural customers, we do whole farm planning, including implementation of best management practices and infrastructure on farms. For our municipal customers, we provide stormwater plan reviews and construction site inspections. For the general public, we aid with soil testing, provide technical assistance in natural resource questions that they have.”
Burger said the two agencies are tied together by a shared concern for the lake.
“Onondaga Lake is one of the most polluted lakes in the country, or was one of the most polluted lakes in the country,” he said. “A lot of our work involves Onondaga Lake. With our presence right there, we’ll be acting as one of the stakeholders to get the lake moving in a cleaner and greener direction.”