Giving credit where credit is due, historically speaking

— For decades I mistakenly believed that Onondaga Lake Parkway had been built under the auspices of the Works Project Administration, President Franklin Roosevelt’s ambitious public employment program designed to take the sting out of the Great Depression.

And I’m not the only one.

Thousands of visitors to the county’s most popular park are officially misled to credit the WPA for the park’s creation. Markers there make the WPA claim look like gospel. Turns out it’s sheer bunk.

“The signs there are wrong,” says local historian Joyce Mills, “and it annoys me.”

Mills, who lives in Liverpool, has meticulously researched the origins of the Onondaga Lake Parkway which opened along with park land and athletic facilities in 1933. Roosevelt’s WPA wasn’t established until 1935.

Local folks such as Joseph A. Griffin and Mr. And Mrs. Crandall Melvin Sr. were more instrumental in the parkway development than any federal officials.

“It was all done with state and local government funding,” Mills said last Saturday. She was addressing a meeting of the Historical Association of Greater Liverpool at the Gleason Mansion. Her talk was illustrated with a slide show of photographs and newspaper clippings documenting the park’s development.

Emergency Work Bureau

Mills will reprise her presentation on Jan. 17, 2013, at Liverpool Public Library.

The park plans were hatched by Griffin in 1928, and more than 2,000 unemployed men were hired to fill in the old Oswego Canal and turn it into the parkway we now enjoy. “It was the largest project in the area,” Mills said, “but it was not a WPA project. It was administered by the Onondaga County Emergency Work Bureau.”

In fact, back in ’28, Griffin was the secretary of the Onondaga County Park and Regional Planning Board and chairman of the Boulevard-Parkway Committee. He pushed for the development of a parkway to connect the city of Syracuse and the village of Liverpool. When the project was finished in 1933, Griffin Field was dedicated in his honor. Now Onondaga County Parks’ main offices are located at the old Griffin Fieldhouse.

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