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Normal lake levels, carousel have made it a good summer for Olcott Beach

It was really summer at the beach Sunday in Olcott, the long-time summer mecca in Niagara County.

The day celebrated the 20th anniversary of the start-up of Carousel Park, home of the 94-year old carousel, built in North Tonawanda, and the 30th anniversary of the resort’s shopping district. The old music of carousels was clearly evident, although turned down for an afternoon concert for older visitors

Olcott has had some problems in the last few years, due to COVID-19 and the high Lake Ontario levels, which shut down the beach.

This year, COVID isn't seen as a factor, lake level is routine and people want to travel, especially those with small children.

“Small children, young families, grandparents. So, we have something for everyone, actually," said Carousel Association President Rosemary Sansone. "Now, they enjoy it. When the kids get too big, we have skee-ball for them or our vintage arcade. They can always ride the carousel. But our rides are just for children who are 52 inches or less.”

That’s a state law, not an Olcott rule.

Visitors ride the carousel at Olcott Beach

Parents, like East Aurora resident Andy Patrinec are aware of the attractions of the community.

“Good weather. Good family place without spending a ton of money, too. It's very cheap to keep the kids entertained," he said.

Williamsville resident Kristy Roesch said her daughter Grace really likes the kid-size nature of the place.

“Fits her interest level and her ability," she said. "I think places like Darien Lake are a little too overwhelming. For her, it's the seat but she loves this. Everything is very close by. She can be relatively independent, getting on the rides. She loves this.”

One problem has been water pollution which has shut down the beach several times on weekdays.
Gift Box at the Beach owner Karen Young said that hasn’t been a problem on weekends.

“It's retested every two days. And so on the weekends when the beach is scheduled to be open, it's actually been open every weekend," Young said. "So, we've actually not seen any decrease in traffic because of the beach. And, of course, all of our other events have been happening every weekend and all summer long. So, they've been great. Business has been good. We've been seeing a lot of tourists from the Falls and Rochester and Buffalo.”

Visitors check out the shops at Olcott Beach Aug. 21, 2022.
Mike Desmond
Visitors check out the shops at Olcott Beach Aug. 21, 2022.

The pollution is a problem and it has been for a number of years. It’s just that the specific source can’t be identified, although geese and deer are considered part of the problem. It’s apparently something to do with 18-Mile Creek.

Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said there’s a lot of science work going on.

“We're adding data by the testing, the additional testing we don't normally do," he said. "We're also looking at doing new testing for the DNA and we're also talking about other things we can try to do to try to eliminate the possible sources. So, it's an elimination game, eliminating possibilities.”

Even with that weekday problem, Covey’s Cove owner Michael Rann said it’s been a good year for on-land activities and on-water.

“We've had a lot of tourists, a lot of fishermen," he said. "There are a lot of people that come to the area to see Niagara Falls, to enjoy the Wine Trail, to just come down to the water and enjoy the sunsets, our shops, just to be able to get away from wherever they're from.”

This summer, the beach sand is getting a beating, the water is getting used and there are many ice cream canisters being emptied.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.