Updated: May 1, 2018
It was another sun-drenched June day on Keuka Lake, and it was clear to everyone that the
finger lakes had finally come of age. Decades of development within the fertile hills and shorelines of the region had made it a contender amongst the likes of Big Sur and Sonoma Valley. Wineries, breweries, and quaint villages reminiscent of Martha’s Vineyard had at last been recognized on a national scale, and tourism had become the fertilizer which enriched the area more and more each year. Ever since Hammondsport was voted “America’s Coolest Small Town” in 2012, Keuka Lake was feeling the effects on an even grander scale. With beautiful Greek revivals and vast rolling farmland adorning her borders, it was a wonder it had taken this long for the rest of the world to catch on. But the time had finally arrived.
The buoyancy of prosperous economic times was most evident when the summer rolled around. Seneca Farms Ice Cream Shop – always a favorite among locals – opened again for business, and people began flocking in from all corners of the world for a taste of Keuka-bred dairy. Iggy’s Bicycle Shop had been struggling to offer old 50’s-style bikes for years, the kind with the basket in the front, and suddenly there were lines out the door with tourists looking to rent the “retro” old things. The once-quiet streets of these tiny towns now offered summer festivals, craft sales, and fourth of July celebrations. Yes, the finger lakes had found their prosperity at last.
The old proverb, “all good things must come to an end” had long been forgotten within the Keuka cornucopia. Unbeknownst to the tourists, the shop-owners, the farmers, and the locals, a threat was lurking within the very lifeblood of their industry. The water which irrigated the soil and nurtured the splashes of children also housed a darker secret. To understand this threat, we must go back twenty-five years, to a dusty bio lab in the basement of the Keuka College science building; to one Richard Charles Darling.
But maybe just one drink first...