At the Onondaga County Legislature Meeting on November 7, an exception was made to the normal public comment period rules, in order for a group of activists to voice their concerns with a planned bike path that would pass through a wooded area home to bald eagles.
One after another, representatives from several wildlife conservation groups got together to press the Onondaga County Legislators on the bike trail project that crosses through a small piece of wetland on the eastern side of Onondaga Lake, called Murphy’s Island.
In the mid 20th century, the lake was toxic and polluted. Through a long-term cleanup effort, led in-part by the county, bald eagles are back, and are a tourist attraction.
“It can be an economic benefit for this area. People will come to this area just for the eagles, and of course will stay overnight, shop at Destiny,” says Diane Green, a founding member of Friends of the Onondaga Lake Bald Eagles.
This bike trail plan is all part of a project called Loop the Lake, which aims to extend the bike trail along Onondaga Lake. The plan bring it right up to Destiny USA, where Murphy’s Island is.
“We made a compromise with the legislature. We supported the plan to place a trail on Murphy’s Island with the express promise that that trail will be kept as far away from the roosting eagles as possible, next to the CSX railroad tracks,” said Onondaga Audubon President Alison Kocek.
Travis Glazier, who represented the opposing position at the meeting, works for Onondaga County as director of it’s Office of Environment.
“We are closing the trail during the wintering period, when food sources are scarce. We are protecting the bald eagles,” he said. That compromise was met with swift opposition from the activists in the public seating area.
Now, the activists must hope that legislators vote to defund the plan put forth by Glazier. No vote was made on this topic at the meeting.