Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Praise for an Undervalued Natural Gem

This edition of Wandering was published in the Kings County Record recently.  It has a slight political tone and that was intentional.  Historically Parson's Brook has been beaten by man and yet it continues to provide a beneficial ecological function to the two municipalities it runs through.  One of these has taken steps to protect it while the other community continues to pursue and allow activities that impact this nice brook.  This could be a brook near you so ask yourself, how can you protect yourself and that aquatic system.

 Nature is a magnificent thing.  It is full of inspiration on multiple scales.  From watching a small butterfly flutter over a rushing river, to a massive and impressive rock face your eyes can hardly take in.  The ear pounding crash of thunder or the deafening silence of a tranquil sunset each inspire even the most disheartened soul.  With that being said, many people undervalue many parts of our natural world.
            Parson's Brook, which flows along the same valley as the Newline Road, is likely one of the most under valued natural assets we have in Kings County.  It flows approximately 8k from its source near the junction of the Newline Road and Church Avenue.  It crosses the Newline three times before taking a turn to the northwest.  From here it flows over the flat agricultural lands that make up the southern portion of Sussex Corner before entering into the old rifle range and the Town of Sussex.  It takes a final turn north, crosses under Main Street, before entering Trout Creek.

            It hasn't always flowed that way though.  Many years ago it was altered to make room for a horse track near where the Sussex Corner Elementary School now sits.  Shortly after this change was made, the lower part of the Brook started drying up during the summer months.  The water instead chooses a path through the deep, coarse gravel deposits as its route to Trout Creek.  This fact has led many people to perceive Parson's Brook as simply a ditch and many treat it as such. 
            To me this unheralded Brook is a testimony to nature's resilience against many of the scars man thrusts upon it.  Parson's Brook had its entire course changed and when it starts to settle into its new course, someone decides to dredge it, or alter it once again.  Parson's Brook keeps searching for its natural course though and every spring, and sometimes in the fall, it flows fast and furious through the man made channel, trying to cut a channel that will allow it to function as it naturally should.
            The fish in Parson's Brook are as resilient as the Brook itself.  With elevated stream temperatures, pollution, and passage barriers it is surprising that any fish live in this stream at all but anyone who has walked the Brook above any of its crossings on the Newline Road can attest that fish, including brook trout, are there.  On one occasion I was incredibly surprised when I entered the Brook at a deep pool and it was so full of fish that they couldn't scatter without a number of them solidly running into me.

            Recently I took sometime to observe some of the smaller components of Parson's Brook.  I come to realize that it deserves more respect than what many give it.  If we leave it alone and give it its space it would eventually function as it should.  With a healthy, vegetated, stream bank or riparian zone it could effectively mitigate the impacts of flooding.  The naturally functioning riparian area would also prevent pollution and litter from entering the stream while also serving as migration corridors for deer, fox, birds, and other wildlife.  This natural corridor could also provide the active community with a new hiking or biking trail that would be ideal for people of all skill sets as it is relatively flat.
            As I watched two young boys play along a small tributary, oblivious to the trash that sits nearby, I can't help but think that we need to begin to look at Parson's Brook in a different light.  We need to understand its value to the natural world and our own man made world.  If you want to understand Parson's Brook and see how it has been impacted I recommend you take a walk along its route.  Start at the crossing at the junction of Newline Road and Needle Street and walk downstream along the left bank.

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