The three middle school boys laugh as they slip and slide, their waders filling with water from Bear Trap Creek. They measure the width of the stream before each, in turn, drops a tennis ball into the water at different points downstream, while an adult times how long it takes each ball to travel 10 feet. When they’re through, the boys then help collect whatever they can from three locations at the bottom of the creek. After laying the mesh on a white board, they inspect their booty.
Sounds like the seventh-grade biology it is, but the boys’ work is also part of a larger quest: the reclamation of Bear Trap Creek, which runs from behind the Post Office on East Taft Road into Ley Creek along Seventh North Street. On its 3½-mile trek south, the waterway abuts the western end of Hancock International Airport, wends behind the Northern Lights shopping plaza, flows roughly adjacent to Interstate 81 and finally spills into Ley Creek near Seventh North Street. Ultimately, the water makes its way into Onondaga Lake.
And we all know how that story is evolving. Les Monostory is a longtime member of the local Izaak Walton League, a group that cares deeply about fish and fishing. The ultimate goal of this work, spearheaded by the Project Watershed Consortium, is to reintroduce fish into the stream.
“Twenty years ago this creek was terribly polluted,” says Monostory, who invited a reporter and photographer to watch the boys at work one glorious fall afternoon. The main culprit? The deicer used during the winter months to make sure planes could safely fly out of Hancock.