By Rachel Wulff


NATOMAS (CBS13) — Decades ago, a proposed baseball stadium became a field of broken dreams. It’s now a pond that has become a sort of bird refuge.

The issue of what to do with it has come home to roost.

What comes next for the 200-acre parcel where the Sleep Train Arena sits is a concern for Christy Berger.

“The biggest concern is these birds will have nowhere to nest,” she said.

Berger works with Sacramento Heron and Egret Rescue. She has watched as the former baseball field filled with water and became a bird sanctuary. It’s now home to 500 pairs of herons. They return each spring to nest in the trees and forage the rest of the year. Other wildlife is there as well, following the pacific migration pathway.

“Geese, ducks, whole bunches of other wildlife. It’s a wetland, is basically what it’s formed back into,” Berger said.

The city is looking at several options for the site which is owned by the Sacramento Kings. One possibility is relocating the Sacramento Zoo there, a plan Berger supports.

“The Smithsonian National Zoo actually has an active heron rookery on site. They work with and study the animals and bring GPS trackers on them,” she said

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It’s not known whether the zoo would even keep the wetland area if that plan is selected.

A zoo spokeswoman said, “We haven’t decided specifically on any one location or identified the geography of any one area. I can tell you that we have committed a million dollars to conservation over the last 10 years.”

Berger worries another type of development could push the birds farther into surrounding neighborhoods. That’s what happened in the Pocket area, causing noise and a real mess for residents.

Laura Kelly lives in Natomas. She’d like to see the zoo move in and habitat preserved because herons already wreaking havoc.

“These trees are just full anyway and they just get bombarded all the cars,” Kelly said.

No matter what project takes flight, Berger is betting it won’t be easy.

“To actually get something this big for the preservation of birds I think will be a big fight,” she said.

Right now, a public comment period for the site is open until Thanksgiving. Then an environmental review will be completed as part of the zoning change process.

Comments can be submitted to the following email: THaenggi@cityofsacramento.org (reference project # P18-077/Natomas Arena Reuse). More information can be found at https://sacramento.civicinsight.com/addresses/531241/1-sports-pkwy and http://www.sacheronsave.org).

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