Schoharie County, with its burgeoning eagle population, may become a destination spot to see the popular bird of prey.
Ten different locations are being designated as viewing points for an Eagle Trail Project being promoted by the Schoharie Economic Enterprise Corporation. SEEC Director Julie Pacatte and intern Jason Brizzee spoke to the Middleburgh village board about the project on Monday evening. SEEC is hoping that the 10 spots along the trail will become “a place to visit.” SEEC is hoping to establish “destination builders.”
In Middleburgh, the eagle trail spotting areas would be at the Timothy Murphy Park on the other side of the creek. Mr. Brizzee, a former Cobleskill-Richmondville student, said the trail is the inspiration of Bill Combs Jr., a photographer and eagle expert.
In addition to Timothy Murphy Park, other planned bald eagle viewing areas are near Sterling Insurance, the backside of Wal-Mart, the Sunshine Fairgrounds, NYPA north gate, Minekill State Park, Zion-Lutheran Church, the Cobleskill reservoir, the Central Bridge fishing vly, and a location on the Franklinton vly.
Having so many eagles in the county could cause an economic boom, Mr. Brizzee said.
He presented research that showed that bird watchers are highly educated and spend money in the viewing areas on equipment, food, lodging, and transportation. Mr. Brizzee asked the board for permission to use the parking lot and to erect a kiosk which will include a sign-up book and site information with a scannable code. Scouts may build the kiosk as an “eagle” scout project.
He explained that the area near the park and creek is a common hunting ground for eagles. Eagles also stay in the area year-round because of the bends in the creek at which water does not usually freeze.
SEEC will seek “friends of the eagle trail” to help sponsor the costs and upkeep, according to Mr. Brizzee. The cost of the signage, maintenance, and observation structures (with in the ground binoculars) will cost about $2,000.
Board members were in favor of the sites though Trustee Bob Tinker asked that only general information be given out on the location of the nests to prevent harm.
SEEC members are very concerned with the disturbing of the habitat, Ms. Pacatte said. “None of us want people to interfere with the nests.” Most of the nests are a “good distance” from the viewing areas. “There are some ‘bad actors’ out there that we want to keep away from the nests… The safety of the birds is foremost in our minds.”
She added that in Cobleskill near Wal-Mark some people went out to the area of the nest. The best way to view the eagles is from a distance, she noted.