The S.O.N.S. (Save Our Native Species) of Lake Erie
By Carolyn McIntyre
The S.O.N.S. (Save Our Native Species) of Lake Erie was established in 1981 and is a very active club that has recently reached its 3,000 member mark. The group has dedicated itself to improving the fishing in Lake Erie and Pennsylvania's tributaries. The S.O.N.S. also have been the leaders in supporting and providing access to Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie. "The water is for all the people to enjoy" according to club member Ed Kissell. To support this, The S.O.N.S. along with their partnerships just dedicated a public fishing pier located at Liberty Park which includes a beautiful green area.
The S.O.N.S. were very involved in the cleanup of industrial pollution along Cascade Creek and the current creek restoration project. Kissell said, "there is 25 feet of vegetation growth on either side of the creek to help prevent erosion and control run-off." Also, "the big stones that were laid in the creek to prevent erosion were recycled from the old railroad bridge located behind Hamot Hospital." The bridge was taken down when the construction of the Bayfront highway began. The recycled stones were also used in Frontier Park as seating and some were placed in the creek to use as a walking path to cross when waters are low.
Thanks to these improvements, steelhead will have better access to Cascade Creek in Frontier Park. An urban area for fishing provides access to all.
The S.O.N.S. also play a vital role in breed sport fish for stocking in area waterways. In 1985, a new hatchery was built and operated by The S.O.N.S. of Lake Erie. This was made possible by two grants obtained from Pennsylvania State Legislature to the Erie Western Pennsylvania Port Authority. The S.O.N.S. are a member of the Cooperative Nursery Branch of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Thanks to this partnership the hatchery produces approximately a million walleye and perch every year. They also stock steel-head and brown trout in our local waters.
In addition, The S.O.N.S. are active in helping develop plans for the Water Zone, an area on the Bayfront from Cranberry Street across to East Avenue and south to Second Street. This area is zoned for commercial, industrial, and residential. "Nearly 45% of the waterfront is public walkway," according to Kissell. A future goal is to make the Water Zone area 100% of the waterfront a public walkway, complete with green areas built into the landscape. The public's access to the water is the number one priority when considering development in this area.
Other S.O.N.S. projects are:
Education - free youth fishing days where kids are taught safety and how to fish.
Habitats - with partnerships with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation of Natural Resources, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, structures are built and placed in Presque Isle Bay for fish habitats.
Donations - $5,000 to The Tom Ridge Environmental Center.
Photo courtesy of Bob Tarkowski