Once upon a time, and probably still, much of the city of Rochester’s attempts to market itself is centered around our various waterways. We have the Genesee River, Lake Ontario, the Erie Canal and are close to the Finger Lakes.
For the moment (see again: hydrofracking) the Finger Lakes remain more or less unspoiled. The same cannot be said of the other bodies of water mentioned.
The Erie Canal has unfortunately been used as a dump for decades. Every spring when it fills back up, plastic bags and other garbage can be seen floating by. Swimming is strictly forbidden and frankly, I’m not sure I would want to even canoe for fear of damaging a small vessel.
The river and lake both face most of the same problems, in part because the Genesee runs into the lake. Runoff fertilizers from lawns makes its way to both causing algae blooms. Industrial waste, mostly from Kodak, also ends up in the river and then the lake. Eating fish caught from the lake is ill-advised and usually the beaches, at least those nearest the city, stink to high heaven.
This is all very unfortunate. We as Rochesterians are denied safe access to what should be the greatest benefit to living here. We are also denied what could be a great economic boon to our area. There is no reason that we should not be seeing staggering levels of tourism as people come to sail our lake, canoe our river and canal and generally enjoy our ecologically and topographically diverse geography. I am not sure how to fix this, but as a community we should make this a priority. There is so much to gain and nothing to lose.