Connecticut’s Department of Energy Environmental Protection (DEEP) today announced that the southern end of the popular Windsor Locks Canal State Park Trail will be closed through June 2014 to protect a pair of nesting bald eagles.
“Although bald eagle numbers are increasing in the state, the birds are still a state threatened species and need our protection,” said DEEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Whalen. “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.”
This eagle pair first nested along the canal trail in 2011 and successfully fledged two chicks. Nesting attempts in 2012 and 2013 were unsuccessful.
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.
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,” said Jim Fritsche, Plant Manager of the Ahlstrom Windsor Locks facility. “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 in mid-June 2014. If the nest fails or the young can fly before the end of June, 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.
Once in decline due to the effects of pesticides, nesting bald eagles returned to Connecticut in 1993, after an absence of almost 50 years. 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 website at http://www.ct.gov/deep/wildlife.