SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It was over 50 years ago when Onondaga County set out to create a trail around Onondaga Lake to connect neighborhoods across the county. 

Today, Loop the Lake is almost near completion, but one of its final legs has proven to be tough as it cuts through a wildlife oasis, known to locals as Murphy’s Island. 

The island is located right behind Destiny USA along Onondaga Lake and has been attracting bald eagles for years. The water near the island doesn’t freeze during the winter because of the warm water coming from the nearby wastewater treatment plant. The abundance of fish to eat and tall trees have created a suitable habitat for the eagles to roost on Murphy’s Island during the winter. 

But when community members heard of the county’s plans to finish Loop the Lake through Murphy’s Island, neighbors like Lindsay Speer were up in arms. 

“The bald eagles returning is one of the best things that’s happened with Onondaga Lake,” Speer said. “Putting any opportunity to put that at risk is not good planning at all.” 

The Onondaga County Director for the Office of Environment said the whole process to decide whether to construct through Murphy’s Island in the first place took about three years including three months of public comment from over 100 neighbors. 

“We went to our partners at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New York State DEC and Army Corp of Engineers and worked with them to find solutions that would both allow for the trail to go through and then also ensure any solution that would move forward wasn’t going to disturb the bald eagles.”

Travis Glazier, Director for the Onondaga County Office of Environment

But approval from both agencies came with stipulations to ensure the safety of the eagles was a top priority. These included closing the trail annually between December 31 and March 31 when the eagles typically roost and ensuring the county was removing as few trees as possible to construct the trail.  

The county also created an access road for construction vehicles to get to and from the island easier. They plan to leave that construction road after the trail is done to make it easier and quicker for visitors to get to Murphy’s Island and admire the bald eagles. 

“So completing it you’re not only talking about people being able to go all the way around it for recreational purposes, but in today’s world when more and more people are looking for transportation alternatives, it’s gonna connect people from the City of Syracuse to the Village of Liverpool to the Village of Solvay,” Glazier said.

Construction through Murphy’s Island started in April 2022 and is slated to be complete by the end of November 2022. It’s still unclear when the entire Loop the Lake trail will be completed.