The draining of Como Park Lake earlier this week signals the first phase of a remediation that will include sediment testing and the replacement of two dam gates that regulate the flow of water.
Residents who live near Como Park Lake in the Village of Lancaster have watched the steady decline of the manmade lake that once teemed with activity.
They see the current empty basin as a good omen — one that many hope will lead to a complete dredging of the lake.
The lake has not been dredged in 25 years.
One resident compared the draining lake to the way it looked in 2017, when the area experienced a drought.
"Last year when the weather was so dry, it was really grotesque," said Frank Maddock, one of the village residents pushing for a cleanup. "You ended up with a large island three-quarters the size of the lake. The entire middle is basically an island of built-up silt."
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz estimated the cost of gate repair at $150,000.
The new gates will allow water to flow more freely and help decrease mounting silt deposits, said County Legislator John Bruso.
In 1892, the lake was created as a 35-acre body of water. The town sold the park to the county in the 1920s. Cayuga Creek flows into Como Park Lake, which is located off Lake Avenue in the Village of Lancaster.
"After a heavy rainfall, the dam overflows and fills Cayuga Creek," Maddock said. "Any dead logs or debris end up hanging over the dam."
Meanwhile, the dam's existing slide gates were damaged by debris and vandalism, said Maddock, whose file on Como Park Lake is voluminous.
Dredging the lake cannot be accomplished until sediment-testing is complete, Bruso said. After that, the county can choose to refill the lake or dredge.
If the lake is refilled, the new gates would hasten the draining process, he said.
"If the soil is clean, can we get everything done when the lake is drained? I don't have the answer to that," Bruso said, "but with the new and improved gates, the lake can be drained rather quickly."
Dredging is costly, with estimates running up to $2 million, according to county officials.
But a series of meetings between officials from the villages of Depew and Lancaster and the Town of Lancaster may spur at least a cost-sharing agreement, said Daniel J. Amatura, Lancaster Town Highway Superintendent.
"I've met with the mayors. We've all talked about this," Amatura said. "There is a definite willingness to pitch in equipment and labor."
The highway superintendent pointed out another advantage of dredging.
"The last time the lake was dredged, the silt was used to build one of the sledding hills at the park," he said.