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Oil Spill Pollutes Pristine Salmon Creek

Knollwood Lodge, Northampton Park
Knollwood Lodge, Northampton Park
Knollwood Lodge, Northampton Park

As usual, Monroe Country is late reporting bad news. The story broke this morning in the D&C that late last month an oil spill in Northampton Park dumped red-dyed fuel oil into Salmon Creek.

The question is; why did it take so long for the news to become public?

This is the same Northampton Park that County Executive Maggie Smith wants to tear up so she can move the Monroe County Fair there from Henrietta. But, not surprisingly, the county is being sued by The Friends of Northampton Park to prevent the action, and preserve the nearly 1000 acres of forest, meadows, and streams that make up the park.

Just what Republican County Executive Maggie Brooks doesn’t need is another scandal, not after the recent County Golf Courses scandal that followed close on the heels of the brutal Limited Development Corporations (LDCs) scandal.

Maybe that’s why the news of the oil spill didn’t come out for three weeks.

The D&C story is buried at the bottom of page 4A in the Saturday paper, but you can also read the story online.

The story is significant enough that it was even picked up by OilSpillSolutions, a British website that tracks oil spills and chemical leaks from around the world

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, the oil spill occurred when workers for Samson Fuel over-pressurized a storage tank while making a delivery the 304 Salmon Creek Road.

But Google Maps puts that address in the middle of nowhere, near the intersection of Loop Road and Salmon Creek Road about 1000 feet south of the Knollwood Lodge, which is right next to Salmon Creek.

So it seems reasonable to assume that the oil spill happened during an oil delivery to Knollwood Lodge, which the Monroe County Parks System advertises has “Regular Heat”.

Polluting Salmon Creek is a disaster, keeping it secret is a disgrace.

Salmon Creek is popular with outdoor enthusiasts for fishing, bird watching, canoeing, and kayaking.

Fishing is popular because of the variety of fish that live in Salmon Creek. Canoeists and kayakers like Salmon Creek because of the beautiful countryside and the variety of water conditions it offers paddlers. Birdwatchers like Salmon Creek because it is host to an amazing number of birds.

Even a small oil spill can ruin all that, so it is surprising that Monroe County wasn’t more upfront about the oil spill.

Salmon Creek has four sections, each with its own distinct characteristics. First there's a shallow stretch with almost constant riffles, followed by a stretch of rapids and fast flowing water, then a mix of riffles and flat-water, and finally a broad cattail marsh.

Because Salmon Creek is so shallow, even a small oil spill can ruin the creek experience for everyone. The oil won’t just wash out into Lake Ontario; it will probably stick to the rocks in the water and along the banks of the stream from Northampton Park all the way to Braddock Bay.

The upper section is usually to shallow for paddling, and paddlers need to check the water level at both ends and in the middle before they put-in. But in the springtime, that stretch of water can be a lot of fun to paddle for those who like fast moving whitewater.

Paddlers can put-in from the bridge at the intersection of Parma Town Line Road and Hinkleyville Road a little north of Adams Basin. Then, at Route 104 (Ridge Road) the creek passes through a huge culvert under the road.

The section downstream from Peck Road is challenging because the ledges, locally known as Parma-Center Falls, require a portage or a car shuttle around this section. Below the ledges, the stream drops twenty feet in a mile and a quarter, and at high water it's an exhilarating ride with a mix of rapids and riffles.

High water is definitely preferable for paddling the section from Parma Center Road to Burritt Road .The section from Burritt Road Hilton is best run from late March, when there is at least a medium water level. From Hilton to Braddock Bay, a medium water level is sufficient.

At Burritt Road, the creek flows through an idyllic wooded setting with high banks set way back from the stream. At high water this stretch is a mix of riffles and flat water that provides a habitat for Mallards, Wood Ducks, and Muskrat.

To the east of Hill Road, the water flow increases significantly after Otis Creek joins Salmon Creek.

Hilton Village Park is a popular place for paddlers to put-in, take-out, or take a break to eat.

Downstream from Hilton, paddlers are likely to see more Mallards and Wood Ducks, as well as Slate-colored Juncos, Mourning Doves, Rusty Blackbirds and Red-tailed Hawks.

As the woods slowly give way to the cattail marsh, Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons and a variety of warblers live along the banks. In the marsh, paddlers see Red-Winged Blackbirds perched on the cattails, hundreds of Canada Geese honking overhead in the spring time, and even Whistling Swans resting during their northern migration.

North of Manitou Road (Route 261) where West Creek joins Salmon Creek, and beyond this point, Salmon Creek is more like an arm of Braddock Bay, where hundreds of waterfowl, including White-Winged Scooters, inhabit the wide waterway during both the spring and fall migrations.

Outdoor enthusiast can only hope that the oil spill doesn’t upset the fragile environment of Salmon Creek.

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