EASLEY — As the city of Easley progresses with the expansion of the Doodle Trail, construction on the park at the current trailhead on Fleetwood Drive has run into a little problem. A small, furry, flying mammal sized problem.
Easley city administrator Stephen Steese told City Council the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had informed city officials the area around the trailhead had “the potential” to be habitat for the Northern long-eared bat — a threatened species — and that as a result, construction on the park has been delayed until fall of this year.
“We are allowed to move between October and March,” Steese said. “But not before.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states the territory for the bat in the United States is roughly from Maine to Georgia along the Atlantic Coast. It also ranges West into Eastern Oklahoma and North through the Dakotas before reaching into some parts of Eastern Montana and Wyoming. The species is also found in areas of Canada.
The bat was designated as “threatened” in 2015 due to a deadly fungal disease known as “white nose syndrome,” a disease named for the white fungus that appears on the muzzle and other parts of hibernating bats.
White nose syndrome (WNS) was first documented in the state of New York in the winter of 2006 but has since rapidly spread across the Eastern United States and Canada. It is estimated by biologists that WNS is responsible for the deaths of over 5.7 million bats.
But here’s the thing: the Northern long-eared bat may not even be here.
In the course of protecting the species, the Wildlife Service cites the “potential harm of publishing its hibernation locations” and a spokesperson refused to state whether or not the species was known to currently reside in the Easley area.
“It (the bat) has created a new (construction) schedule and we’re in the process of getting that up to date,” Steese said.
The news of the delay came on the heels of a unanimous vote by council to spend $250,000 from the city’s accommodations tax fund on two properties as part of the trail’s extension plan to bring the trail further into the downtown area.
Despite the setback, Steese sees a silver lining: “I think that in the long run it will probably work out for the best because it will mean that the park up there will be closed during the slowest part of the year for the trail (for construction) versus trying to shut it down during the Summer when it may be used pretty heavily,” he said.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.