Defend Ohi:yo’ kayak river trip July 18 to end in Salamanca

Masonic Park on RC Hoag Drive in Salamanca will be the ending point for the free Let’s Go Paddling event down the Allegheny River planned by Defend Ohi:yo’ for Saturday, July 18.

SALAMANCA — A group of volunteers dedicated to preserving the Allegheny River is holding an educational kayak trip next weekend with social distancing safety practices in place.

Defend Ohi:yo’, a Salamanca-based environmental organization, has planned Let’s Go Paddling, a family-friendly, virus-safe and free event, for July 18 starting at 9 a.m.

On Wednesday, the Salamanca Common Council approved a request by Defend Ohi:yo’ to use Masonic Park, also known as Indian Park, at the corner of Front Avenue and RC Hoag Drive for the ending point of the 11-mile river journey.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Mayor Michael Smith. “We’ve been talking for how many years about getting more tourism on the river. This is the first step towards that.”

Jessica Crouse, a member of the group, said they had recently received a $4,800 grant and they wanted to come up with an event that could get people out while still social distancing.

“We’re based here, but the thing is we have such a loyal group,” she said. “We have people who come to our bi-weekly meetings from as far away as Coudersport (Pa.)”

This canoe and kayak trip will start at Seneca Junction in Carrollton near where South Nine Mile Road meets Route 219, Crouse said, with launch time from 9 to 10 a.m. There will several stations along the way where people can pull up on shore and learn about the river.

“We do have some educational booths along the way where we’ll be educating people about the watershed and the soils,” she said. “These will also have those COVID regulations in mind.”

Defend Ohi:yo’ t-shirts, water bottles and bumper stickers will be available at both the launch point and at the end in Salamanca, Crouse said. At the finish, there will also be food and snacks available by donation, and a basket of useful items will be raffled off at the end of the day.

“We’re quite mindful of all those things, and even at the ending point we’ll have multiple tents to make sure if people have questions or need refreshments we’re still portioning people out correctly,” she added.

Everyone is welcome to participate in this drug-free and alcohol-free event. Minors need to be accompanied by an adult. Crouse said paddlers are asked to arrange their own transportation so they can get back to their vehicles at the junction, or so that they can have their vehicles parked at the finish.

The rain date for the event is July 25. For any questions or more information, email defendohiyo@gmail.com or call (716) 708-8242.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the council approved the issuance of a statutory installment bond for $450,000 for the installation of the UV upgrades for the city’s Waste Water Treatment Plant.

The total cost of the project is $638,295, said Dennis Hensel, manager of the Board of Public Utilities, with the remaining $188,295 coming out of the BPU’s savings.

State officials first contacted the city about the needed upgrades to the treatment plant in the fall of 2018. Smith said the state has warned the city for about a year that not installing the UV upgrades would result in fines of $10,000.

“This is one we have to do, and it’ll go with the money that the BPU has put away,” the mayor said. “It’s an absolute must-do and it’s time to get it going.”

Hensel said a crew from STC Construction has been on-site pouring concrete since mid-June and redoing some of the sewer system’s tunnels before the actual installation of the UV system.

“It’s not like doing the chlorination thing which has been proven to be illegal now,” the mayor added. “This is a state-of-the-art system and should last us our lifetimes.”

The council also approved the issuance of a second statutory installment bond for $298,424 for the purchase of a used 2020 Altec bucket truck for the city’s electric department.

Hensel said the BPU was not going to have to bond for the truck originally because the New York Power Authority was to finance the purchase. Then in March, NYPA told Hensel the program that would pay for it was being suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My truck is either coming late this week or early next week, so I had to scramble and find a bond for it because they canceled that program,” he said. “But if in this week they can reinstate this program, I can swing back over and it’ll be financed through that and I won’t need this bond.”

(Contact Salamanca Press editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com.)

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