Running For a Cause at Otisco Lake

Otisco Lake is the easternmost of the 11 Finger Lakes, lying in the southwest corner of Onondaga County near Syracuse, just east of better-known Skaneateles Lake. It’s a sleepy lake, a summer resting place for many Syracuse-area families, and is best known for its bass fishing. At only six miles long, Otisco is not huge, but its scenery is dramatic among the steep foothills that dot southern Onondaga County.

Recently, Otisco was the scene of some excitement, as it played host to the Second Annual Watershed Shuffle, a four-mile running race organized by the Otisco Lake Preservation Association (OLPA). Like Skaneateles to the west, Otisco Lake has found itself in the center of the hydrofracking debate, and the OLPA is trying to bring awareness to the issue. “We held this event to raise funds and to serve as a vehicle for community outreach,” explains Anita Williams, OLPA president. “We had a great number of enthusiastic volunteers.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently upheld a ban on hydrofracking around the Skaneateles watershed, which serves as the main water source of the City of Syracuse and much of Onondaga County. It is one of only a few unfiltered municipal water sources in the country. However, Otisco did not receive such a ban, despite the fact that it is adjacent to Skaneateles and also serves as a water source for Syracuse. “We’re disappointed,” says Williams. “It’s going to be a constant struggle. Our organization is dedicated to preserving the Otisco watershed and to reminding people that this is a drinking water source.”

While the policy struggle continues, runners have discovered the challenging hill course at the Watershed Shuffle. In only its second year, the Shuffle’s course record was shattered by nearly 3 minutes by 21-year-old Andrew Corcoran of Syracuse who finished in a time of 22 minutes flat. The top female finisher was Julie Rosa of LaFayette, who posted a time of 27 minutes 48 seconds, also a course record.

The Otisco Lake Preservation Association plans to hold the Watershed Shuffle as an annual event. In the meantime, Anita Williams hopes that the awareness and enthusiasm that the group generates resonates throughout the region as the hydrofracking debate continues. “I believe that all the Finger Lakes should get special recognition by the DEC,” she says.


by Jason Feulner