More than 130 interested persons gathered on Sunday March 30 in the Port Rowan Community Centre to hear and see the recommendations for improving the Long Point Causeway (50 megabyte file).
Some year and half ago, a Steering Committee was formed from representatives of a diverse group of local and national organizations to lead a Long Point Causeway Improvement Feasibility study. The study’s intent was to develop practical solutions to wildlife road mortality and improve the connectivity of water and wildlife movement between the Big Creek marsh and the Inner Long Point Bay.
The Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation agreed to assume the financial and organizational responsibilities for the Steering Committee as concerns about the wildlife mortality dovetailed with the Biosphere’s Purpose. A team of Ecologists, Environmental Planners, Water Resource managers and Civil Engineers from Ecoplans Limited and McCormick Rankin Corporation were retained by the Biosphere to prepare a plan of possible future improvements including short and long-term recommendations.
Visitors to the March 30 Open House were greeted by a number of posters outlining the recommendations and a pictorial map of the Causeway that outlined the recommended changes. A verbal presentation was made by Geoff Gartshore (leader of the Ecoplans team) using the Causeway map followed by an opportunity to ask questions. In addition to feedback through these questions, each participant received a questionnaire that solicited comments and suggestions. Ecoplans will study these suggestions for future direction.
The three phases of the Feasibility Study were as follows:
- Develop a solid technical understanding of the wildlife mortality on the causeway and through study the growing body of literature on road ecology, develop a possible solution for the Causeway.
- Through a review of all collected material, generate a long list of possible options to mitigate the excessive wildlife mortality on the Causeway. Review this list with the Steering Committee to create a short list of options and develop a recommended plan of action.
- Using the short list of options, develop specific management actions and formulate an Improvement Plan.
When implemented, such a plan will help to achieve the vision for the Long Point Causeway as articulated by the Steering Committee as follows:
- Improve the Causeway so that wild life mortality will be reduced substantially and the hydrological connections between Big Creek Marsh and Long Point Inner Bay will be substantially improved. The improved Causeway will provide ancillary social benefits including improved road safety and enhanced recreational opportunities while maintaining the rural character of the Long Point countryside.
In brief the Plan as presented is as follows.
- Design and install a permanent ecopassage system that will provide animals with an alternative to having to cross the road overland. An ecopassage system consists of culverts and bridges to provide wildlife movement under the roadway and a continuous funnel system of wall or fence that directs wildlife toward the passages and prevents wildlife entering the roadway. Twelve ecopassages are recommended for the length of the causeway. This number should increase the likelihood of use by the species concerned and decrease the distance traveled by reptiles that are slow moving. Also, reptiles have relatively small home ranges and are susceptible to predation if they must move long distances.
The funnel wall system will need to be made of relatively smooth material to prevent certain species from climbing over the wall. The wall needs to be at least one metre high and be fashioned with a 'lip' or 'cap' to prevent certain animals from scaling the wall. The funnel wall must be durable enough to withstand temperature extremes, erosion, winter road maintenance and ice build up.
- Improve the existing hydraulic conditions by re-creating openings through the causeway to allow for the exchange of bay water with the marsh. While the causeway reduced the exchange of water with the Inner Bay there were several outlets that maintained circulation within the marsh. By the mid-twentieth century the southern outlets had been closed and water control structures were removed as they fell into disrepair.
- According to the Norfolk County Lakeshore Special Policy Area Secondary Plan, the causeway is a candidate trail route and is indicated as an on-road cycling route extending from Long Point Provincial Park up the causeway and connecting with a trail system on the Front Road. The road expansion of the causeway necessary to implement the ecopassage system presents an excellent opportunity to consider a multi-use trail system along the west side of the road. The necessary expansion will easily accommodate a multi-use trail safely set back from the roadway as well as landscaping, all within the existing County road allowance.
Much more detail having to do with the proposed plan, additional signage, traffic calming methods, temporary measures and monitoring are included in the Ecoplans proposal. A copy of the proposal is available at the Port Rowan Public Library as well as the complete causeway map.
The steering committee is meeting later in April to consider acceptance of the final Ecoplans report, feedback from participants in the open house, further publicity efforts and the financial considerations of pursuing such an important project.
Those who participated in the March 30 Open House expressed their excitement at the proposed improvement to the Long Point causeway and also their enthusiastic support for the betterment of our natural environment. This project will be an exhilarating time for Port Rowan and Long Point.