The southern end of the Windsor Locks Canal State Park Trail will be closed until July 1, 2012, to protect a pair of nesting bald eagles, the Connecticut Department of Energy Environmental Protection announced Friday.
“Although bald eagle numbers are increasing in the state, the birds are still a state threatened species and need our protection,” DEEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Frechette, said in a press release. “Because disturbance can cause the adult eagles to abandon their nest, causing the eggs or chicks to die, it is necessary to close the trail until the chicks can fly.”
Once in decline due to the effects of pesticides, nesting bald eagles returned to Connecticut in 1993, after an absence of almost 50 years. Twenty-three bald eagle pairs were documented in the state in 2011, and 21 of those pairs made nests. Two of the 21 nests failed, and the 19 successful bald eagle pairs fledged 29 chicks.
The DEEP Windsor Locks Canal State Park Trail is formed from a historic towpath built to bypass the Enfield rapids in the Connecticut River. The rapids provide a shallow area that is perfect for the bald eagles to find their preferred food of fish. It is not a surprise, then, that the eagles chose a nest site near a feeding area.
The state took similar action in 2011 for nesting bald eagles.
Ahlstrom Nonwovens LLC maintains a lease agreement with the State of Connecticut to allow public access to the tow path.
“We are pleased that the eagles have returned to nest alongside the canal, and we are also happy to provide access along this historic pathway so that the community can take in the beautiful views of the Connecticut River,” Pat Fay the Plant Manager of the Ahlstrom Windsor Locks facility, said. “Ahlstrom understands the important intersection between the environment and industry and practices sustainable manufacturing principles to ensure a minimum environmental impact.”
DEEP and Ahlstrom will only keep the trail closed until the young eagles have reached flying stage, which is anticipated to be July 1, officials said. If the nest fails or the young can fly before July 1, the trail will be opened earlier.
During the closure, visitors can still walk or bike the trail from the northern section for about two miles until they come to a gate and are instructed to turn around. The southern end of the trail will remain closed.
Bald eagles are protected during the nesting season by Connecticut General Statute 26-93 and are protected on the federal level by the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The DEEP Wildlife Division has published a fact sheet on bald eagles, which is available on the DEEP Web site at http://www.ct.gov/deep/wildlife.