SALT, SALT, SALT – – Winter in Erie

January 6, 2013 9:32 am Published by Leave your thoughts


PENNDOT and Salt!  The two go together like ham and eggs, bread and butter and peanut butter and jelly    But, this is not true on Presque Isle.  The park may be one of only a few places in Erie County that NO SALT is used to help melt ice and snow.   Many visitors to the park find out the hard way that this is true.  Winter can be skip and slide time on Presque Isle.

Just this week, walkers on the park found that walking on the multi-purpose trail could be an adventure if they did not wear ice cleats on their shoes.   Sure, walking in the light snow was usually ok, but if you were walking on plowed areas, a thin coat of ice was waiting to ambush you.   One of the first winter lessons my wife and I learned was that these inexpensive addition that fit right over your shoes need to become a fixture in your car at this time of the year.

These cleats come in many styles and prices.   I have seen pairs of cleats from $6.99 per pair to $60.00 per pair.   This is definitely a product where the cheap-o is usually NOT what you should buy.   Remember, they will carry you weight season-long on concrete and ice.   They will wear out.   The mid-range cleats can and do last a season or two.    Some types come with replaceable cleats which can extend use well beyond this.   If you want to make it easy to shop and see a very large selection of ice cleats, I suggest you go to and search under ICE CLEATS.  The ones that work well and last a good amount of time will run about $20.00 to $30.00.

Why don’t they use salt on the park?   If you have a hour or so I can give you the whole story about salt and the environment.   The reasons and consequences of using salt would fill a large book.   So, I will try in just alot fewer words to give you the reasons that are most important.  They basically fall into eight different areas which are:

      1. Water quality issues
      2. Human health impacts
      3. Pet impacts
      4. Wildlife impacts
      5. Aquatic life impacts
      6. Vegetation impacts
      7. Soil impacts
      8. Infrastructure impacts

    Contaminates from road salt enter water resources by infiltration to groundwater and runoff to surface water (bay,lake and lagoons).   The problem is that the chloride discharge into these waters remains in solution and is not subject to any significant natural removal methods; only dilution can reduce its concentration.   Water with NaCl creates a higher water density and will settle at the deepest part of a body of water.  This leads to the bottom layer of water becoming void of oxygen and unable to support aquatic life.   Basically, once in the watershed, salt remains in there until it is flushed out or fully diluted.


Sodium in the drinking water is a serious health concern for people restricted to low-sodium diets due to hypertension.   The EPA requires that local public water supplies be monitored for sodium content.  Well water should be tested for the same problem.


There are two basic concerns for pet owners regarding road salt.   They are ingestion and paw health.   According to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, ingestion by eating directly , licking salt-coated paws, or by drinking snowmelt or runoff can and has produced vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, disorientation,coma and even death.   Exposure of your pet’s paws to road salt can produce irritations, inflammation, and cracking of the feet pads that can be prone to infection.

    Road salt, the wildlife killer.  Road salt in the environment affects the health of the wildlife, including birds and mammals.   Birds, the most sensitive wildlife species to salt, often mistake salt crystals for grit or seed.  Consumption of VERY small amounts of road salt can result in toxicosis and widespread death with the bird population.   Again, drinking snowmelt and runoff from salt contaminated areas can lead to death when ingested in toxic amounts.   Damage to vegetation can  have a major impact on wildlife habitat by destroying food resources, shelter, nesting sites, and by creating a favorable environment for invasive plant species.


    Chloride in surface waters can be and is toxic to many forms of aquatic life.  Aquatic species include fish, macro invertebrates, insects and amphibians.   It has been found that the presence of salt in the water also releases toxic metals from bottom sediment and this can cause additional problems.  

    The most visible impact of road salt is in the grasses, shrubs and foliage along treated roadways.  Salt leaves the road and enters the environment by splash and spray from cars and trucks, by the wind, snowmelt and runoff.   Salt causes dehydration which leads to foliage damage that harms root growth.  Salt also disrupts nutrient intake and causes injury to seed germination, stems, leaves and flower


    Salt has a negative influence on the soil that it infiltrates.  Though a chemical process the Na ion of salt stays within the soil and releases other ions such as Calcium, Potassium, and Magnesium into the groundwater.  The salt has several other bad effects on the soil, including inhibiting some natural soil bacteria compromising soil structure and increasing sediment in the runoff.


    Salt increases the conductivity of water and accelerates corrosion,  Take for example, what salt does to your car.   It can penetrate and deteriorate concrete on bridges and damage reinforcing rods in structures.   The cost of such corrosion damage from salt has been estimated at over 18 billions per year.

    Now you know why there is no salt used on Presque Isle.   There are a few changes in our habits we need to make when we walk and drive in a salt-free environment.   The first, walking, we have already covered.   The next and perhaps just as important is driving on Presque Isle in the winter.

This past week there were many slips, slides and near accidents on the park.   Now most of us know the speed limit is 25 mph, yet how many 25er’s have you seen lately.    Well in the winter with its ice potential, 25 may be a bit too fast.  Friend told me about a big old Lincoln that was signaling he was going to turn into the Ranger Station parking area, yet did a perfect donut slide right by the entrance and across the road.  If you pay a little attention, you will see many signs of other slips and slides that are apparent from the skids in the snow.


Driving and walking on Presque Isle is an acquired skill in the winter.  It is really fairly easy, just slow down, pay attention and if you are walking dress the part (wear warm clothes and proper footwear) and come equipped.    The park is fun 365 days a year, so give it a try.  In fact why don’t you join the group walking on Presque Isle on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. for a winter night walk.   These walks meet at ranger station and continue until March 28.

See you on the park!!   


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