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Boulders, Bikers … And Eagles? A New Setback For Re-Opening American River Bike Trail Near Lake Natoma

U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch

A bald eagle on a nest at Lake Natoma, April 13, 2018, Sacramento. A pair of bald eagles have been nesting successfully at this location for at least two years, producing a pair of fledglings each breeding season.

U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch

A pair of bald eagles is making it tough to repair a much-needed portion of a popular bike trail along the American River.

But the eagles are just the newest setback for the trail’s maintenance. A storm caused boulders and earth to tumble onto the trail last winter. That closed a portion of a trail within the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail wraps around Lake Natoma near the Arden Bluff region of Orangevale. It’s part of a system of trails that links downtown Sacramento to Folsom Lake.

"During the summer, the eaglets flew the nest, and so the parents left,” said Adeline Yee, a spokesperson for California State Parks, who added that, “just last week the pair came back, and they are now building a new nest, which means it would be illegal to do anything to disturb them while they are present.”

The eagles have nested in the area for two years. If the couple successfully produces offspring, it will stay until mid-summer. Last year, the birds hatched two eaglets.

This winter, the state will conduct environmental reviews for the project, including how to fix the trail without disturbing the birds, which are endangered in California.

Yee says crews can’t operate heavy machinery to move the boulders off the trail because of the loud noise. “Any kind of noise would affect the nesting of these federally protected birds,” he said

Yee’s department is asking trail users to keep away from the nesting site.  

“I have seen video of people going around the boulders,” Yee said. “I know it's very tempting, but we are asking people if they are in the area to please be quiet, because any kind of noise is going to provide a setback for these federally protected birds.”

For cyclists and runners, this might come as bad news, since Yee says this part of the trail may not reopen until late next summer, after the eagle’s offspring have flown the coop.

“I understand the frustration of the public,” Yee said about delays. “I think it is very cool to have these bald eagles here in our park and to actually grow their population here locally.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misnamed California State Parks spokesperson Adeline Yee. It has been corrected.

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