People tend to believe that the world’s wonders lie in distant places. There are wonders enough in central New York. One of my favorites is Green Lakes State Park.
Located in the Town of Manlius, about seven miles east of Syracuse, the parkfeatures two lakes: Green Lake and Round Lake. It also has rustic grounds for such activities as hiking, golfing, camping fishing and cross-country skiing.
The lakes are geologic rarities. As a boy, I frequently heard that they were both “bottomless”. Of course, they are not literally bottomless, but they are quite deep.
Formed by glaciers, those busy sculptors of the ancient world, these lakes aredeemed meromictic: their bottom waters do not mix with their top. Their depth to the vivid green coloring that distinguishes them throughout much of the year.
The lakes first came to the attention of geologists in 1839. The lakes had come to attract people through their proximity to the Erie Canal. And in the following decades, Green Lakes became a popular recreation place for residents of the Syracuse area.
The park was developed substantially in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Franklin Roosevelt, as governor and, later, as president, took a strong interest in developing New York’s parks.
One of the people enlisted to develop the park was Laurie Cox, a leading landscape architect. Cox was a professor at Syracuse University’s forestry school. He was also the University’s first lacrosse coach, starting a strong tradition of national leadership in the sport.
Cox planned many of the park’s trails. But perhaps his greatest contribution to the park was the Administration Building, built according to his specifications in 1929.
Other buildings followed, including the summer cabins built in the 1930’s. Of particular note is the golf course, landscaped by Robert Trent Jones, a leading expert in golf course design.
Interestingly enough, the beach as we know it dates from the 1930’s. Civilian Conservation Corps workers took sand from Sylvan Beach, and placed it on the shores of Green Lake.
My first contacts with the park were through the beach. My parents started taking me there as a small child. I’ve always been an aquatic creature, and I remember rushing into the water as soon as my feet touched the sand.
Later I would spend summer weeks with my family vacationing at the park cabins. Much later, I learned that these same cabins had been used during World War II to house German prisoners of war.
Of vivid memory from my cabin stays were the raccoons. The raccoons used to raid our garbage cans. At night I would lie in bed listening to them working outside.
The raccoons became quite fat from their raids. And bold. One night, while I was sitting at a picnic table, a large raccoon came up to me. He apparently wanted me to feed him.
In recent years, I’ve added other activities to my Green Lakes outings: fishing, running and cross-country skiing. But perhaps the best activity there is hiking. On foot, you can take more time to admire Laurie Cox’s Administration Building, beautifully built of stone and timber into its hilly environment. Or you can walk past tall ancient-growth trees, or watch schools of fish in the shallow parts of the lakes.
Animals are everywhere. Deer have been prevalent of late. You can see them in groups, casually crossing the park’s paved roads.
The downside of a Green Lakes visit is that it’s too expensive. On a summer day it costs $8 to park at Green Lakes.
New York’s parks have become endangered by a government unable to manage its budget. Recently, the state announced the closing of several parks.
Nevertheless, Green Lakes was not one of the parks named. There are sufficient signs for its continuation. Renovations have also been done on the Administration Building. And a refreshment building on the beach has recently replaced an older, 1950’s-era structure.
There are numerous places in the world to visit, and I would like to see many of them. But one of my favorites remains Green Lakes.