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Conservationists worry about impact of lake trail extension on bald eagle habitat and human health

Murphy's Island creek walk April 27, 2022.
Maxwell Mimaroglu
This is where the Loop the Lake extension will continue from the end of the creekwalk to Murphy's Island. April 27, 2022.

Conservationists have deep concerns about the impact the next segment of the Loop the Lake Trail will have on the bald eagle habitat on the southeastern end of Onondaga Lake.
Work has begun on the 1/3 mile path on what’s called Murphy’s Island, the contaminated 40 acre piece of land behind Destiny USA and the railroad tracks. The project is four years in the making. Diana Green is with friends of the Onondaga Lake Bald Eagles.

"We're not against a trail. But we don't think it has to go over this particular piece of property."

Murphy's Island creek walk April 27, 2022.
Maxwell Mimaroglu
The creekwalk is fenced off before it reaches the shoreline and railroad bridge, where construction on the new trail is taking place. April 27, 2022.

Dozens of the raptors roost there during the winter months because it’s near the part of the lake that doesn’t freeze over, providing a steady source of food. Green worries the increased presence of people, and disruption of the habitat will scare off the eagles.

"The overstory trees are where they generally are hanging out. But the understory trees protect them from harsh winter weather. All of the trees are important. We're talking about a postage stamp sized area here. There aren't a lot of trees to begin with."

Travis Glazier is director of Onondaga County’s Office of the environment.

"As comments came in, as advice came in from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, as comments came in from the public, a great deal of effort went into preserving overstory trees especially, ensuring none of those trees were removed in the process."

He says the project has all the permits and clearances from of state and federal regulators regarding the eagles and site contamination. Still, Diana Green wonders if the county gave enough practical consideration to the location.

"At the end of the lake that has the most weathering, the most save action, the most wind, the most ice build up, they're going to build a 315 foot shoreline boardwalk there. I predict will cause a need for significant annual maintenance."

Murphy's Island creek walk April 27, 2022.
Maxwell Mimaroglu
The creekwalk ends just beyond this railroad bridge at the shoreline. April 27, 2022.

The $1 million trail is moving forward despite the objections of hundreds of people over a total of 120 days of public comment. Glazier with the county says they’ve addressed concerns of advocates.

"Probably the only way they would have felt they were heard is if the project didn't go forward. We continually addressed the issues. All that information was taken in by those responsible for bald eagles, those responsible for human health and safety at the site."

He says maintaining overstory trees and adding a gate to close the trail during prime eagle roosting times were all incorporated based on public input.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at