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Wolcott emergency crews have problems with Chimney Bluffs response conditions

by WayneTimes.com
September 11, 2021

Hundreds of people walk the trails, take in the views along the Chimney Bluffs State Park in the Town of Wolcott on a daily and weekly basis.

Land and water clash at Chimney Bluffs, sculpting the most dramatic landscape on the Lake Ontario shore. You can experience massive earthen spires from above or along the lakeshore on nature trails. Day-use services include picnic areas, nature trails and restrooms.

There are problems however. 

Erosion has pushed back the shoreline over the decades and the high waters and flooding of 2017 and 2019. 

Wolcott firefighter, Brett Furber recalled the beach as a youth, now having receded almost 100 feet, leaving anywhere from eight to fifteen feet of beach walk-ability.

The State created new trails further back from the new, moving shoreline and higher cliffs in an effort to increase walkers’ safety. An extended bridge was built at one point on the main trail to make it easier to traverse the mile long trip.

Signs and fences warn walkers of dangerous areas, but visitors often push beyond for a view of the water in the thick forested area.

The pathways are six to eight feet wide, but strewn with surface tree roots waiting for unwary walkers. Then there are the daredevils willing to put life and limb in danger for the ideal camera picture, or video on the higher cliffs.

Over the years,  Wolcott first responders have rescued, or helped injured walkers and those willing to push the extremes.

To the Wolcott first responders any attempts to aid, or rescue the injured has become a challenge due to Mother Nature and the State’s reluctance to help.

The Wolcott Fire Department uses a six foot wide track UTV for all-weather rescues. Unfortunately, the State Parks Department installed bridges 3-5 feet wide for otherwise treacherous terrain. That means the UTV becomes unsuitable for medial and retrieval emergencies.

On top of that, the stone beach front that would be able to respond to beach and lower ground incidents is strewn with fallen trees and debris.

The result is that emergency responders have to walk in and physically transport by a stokes basket anyone needing medical aid.

Furber, one of the approximately 25 active Wolcott firefighters, like many of his fellow mates is aging. On Thursday he walked about 1/3 of the trail and bridges, slowly, sweating profusely. “Imagine doing this, carrying a stokes basket, rope, lights and medical supplies up to the scene and back down”, he stated.

Callers for emergency help along the many trails often cannot relay exact  positioning, creating another problem for responders. 

The Wolcott Fire Department has suggested placing markers along the trails to indicate a position, possibly with GPS coordinates to make finding and injured party’s location in the park. 

The responders also want the state to clear the beach of fallen trees and debris for access by their rescue equipment.

Furber stated that if someone falls from a cliff, rescuing can only be made by lowering the individual, making beach access to be a critical concern. The only way a person can be removed is calling the North Rose boat and extricating a person by boat and delivery to the Sodus area. He added that time and dwindling light are another foe to a successful rescue.

Recently, a woman who had fallen on the trail with a broken bone had to be carried out on a stokes basket taking over an hour. “What if the person had a heart attack? They would be dead’, added Furber.  

Assemblyman Brian Manktelow contacted Regional Parks Director Fred Bonn about the problems for first responders at Chimney Bluffs.

 “They plan to do something but he (Bonn) stated it is definitely a problem, but it is all about funding. Everything with the State takes time” said Manktelow.

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