By GIB SNYDER
OBSERVER City Editor
There will be more smooth pedaling for bicyclists who enjoy a trip along Lake Erie's waterfront areas. It has taken longer than originally projected, but work has begun on Phase II of the city of Dunkirk's bike trail. The trail project, which is some six years in the making, will still have one more phase to complete.
OBSERVER Photos by Gib Snyder
Phase II of the city of Dunkirk's bike trail will go through this stand of trees located just south of Cedar Beach. Some trees will be cut to make way for the 8-foot wide trail.
Work on Phase II of the city of Dunkirk's bike trail began Thursday as a crew from ERW Enterprises began clearing brush and some trees just outside Point Gratiot near the end point of Phase I of the trail.
The second phase of the bike trail will connect the first phase, which runs through Point Gratiot and is complete, with the third phase, which will run along the walkway safety rails adjacent to Lake Front Boulevard. City officials have said the third phase will be tied in with a seawall project. The final scope and construction style of the seawall project, along with how much it will cost city taxpayers, has yet to be announced.
Phase I runs from the entrance of Point Gratiot off Point Drive West through the Point, ending just past the concrete barriers at the exit end of the Point. The original path for Phase 2 called for removing some trees and brush from the grove of trees just outside the exit end of Point Gratiot. That path underwent slight adjustments after city officials met with birders to accommodate their concerns as best they could. Workers from ERW Enterprises began the removal of brush and trees to clear the way Thursday.
At a May 2012 Common Council meeting, John Ruska thanked the city for the change, which he said will help various species of birds.
"If you go there at this time of the year you'll find they come up and they land at Point Gratiot before they go across the lake. They have to eat there," Ruska said of warblers.
"One thing that you have right now, you have invasive species. You have Japanese knotweed, and Japanese honeysuckle is cutting out the undergrowth of plants that they would eat, fruits that they would eat, cutting out all of that. So, it's important you look into that."
He said the return trip sees them stop at the Point in the fall, but the birds aren't the only ones coming to the area.
"Bird clubs from all over western New York and Pennsylvania come to Dunkirk," Ruska said. "You don't recognize them because they are quiet people. ... Seriously, it's an important area during the winter, 12 months of the year ... and also the birds that live here the year around."
The adjustment won't change the majority of Phase II, which is proposed to follow the edge of the woods and then continue to a point just past the driveway of the state Department of Environmental Conservation Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit before crossing Point Drive North. The trail will then run along the east side of Point Drive North, with construction consisting of 8-foot wide asphalt running in the city right-of-way. The trail will then head east along Route 5 until it reaches the area between the Clarion Hotel and Tim Hortons, where it will turn toward Lake Erie and head along the path by the rails until it gets to Lake Front Boulevard.
Cyclists, along with trail walkers and joggers, will have some choices where they wish to get closer to the lake as paths to the current walkway along the Memorial Park rails can be accessed at several sites. In addition, Central Avenue can be used to reach the trail and city pier.
While some trees were saved by the adjustment made to Phase II of the trail as it exits the Point, other trees will not be spared. After the trail crosses to the east side of Point Drive North and gets past Cedar Beach, some trees will be cut down to make way for the trail.
"They're tight, but that's city property so they're going to expand that," Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said of the route in front of houses on the trail. "We'll finish up by Tim Hortons. There will be a curb and it will be cleaned up."
Dolce added that plans call for Phase II to be completed this year.
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