The construction of a significant leg of the Santa Ana River Trail halted less than three months after it began, San Bernardino County officials announced.
Work on a 3.8-mile segment of the multi-use trail connecting Redlands to San Bernardino stopped in late April when the county discovered a state-protected bird, the endangered Least Bell’s Vireo, had settled in the area and established breeding grounds, officials said in a statement.
The palm-sized bird found itself in the middle of a full-speed construction zone until April 21, when the county halted work on Phase 3 of the Santa Ana River Trail project. That segment of the trail, originally expected to open in August, won’t be finished until early 2024, the county said.
The project is part of the larger Santa Ana River Trail, a 110-mile path for cyclists and pedestrians that will eventually run from the sea to the mountains — from Huntington Beach to San Bernardino National Forest.
The trail is 60% complete, with two significant gaps, from Green River in Orange County to the Hidden Valley Wildlife area in Riverside County and from Waterman Avenue in San Bernardino to the national forest boundary line near Mentone, according to the county.
On Jan. 31, local officials celebrated groundbreaking on the stretch of the trail from its current terminus at Waterman Avenue to California Street in Redlands. The final leg of the trail, from California Street to Garnet Street and into the mountains, is still in the design and planning stages.
It’s unclear when construction will resume on the San Bernardino to Redlands leg of the trail.
Officials say the Least Bell’s Vireo breed in Southern California from the latter half of March to early April, but may remain until late in September, when the birds migrate back to Mexico.
In a statement, the county said the Department of Public Works would survey the area in July and August to determine if the endangered bird had cleared the area. Due to the delay, however, construction on the trail between San Bernardino and Redlands will not be completed until “at least February 2024,” the county said.