Tuesday, October 11, 2016
By Daniel R. Pearce, Simcoe Reformer
SIMCOE – As work on wildlife and ecological protection measures along Long Point causeway finally comes to an end, one key question remains unanswered.
Who will take care of the underground passageways that run between the marsh and the bay as well as the low-level fencing that discourage turtles from crossing the road?
The citizens group behind the project has raised more than $2.7 million over the past decade for the mesh fencing and construction of 12 culverts that allow safe migration under the roadway for snakes, turtles, and other wildlife.
But what happens next, acknowledged Rick Levick, co-ordinator of the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project, is “yet to be negotiated. We’ll discuss how we move forward.”
Levick said Norfolk County wants his group to continue to do the maintenance, but the group would like to see town hall take it over from here.
It’s normal for the public to raise money to pay for community projects such as libraries and ball parks that are then handed over to town hall to operate, he noted.
“The hard part was building it and showing that it works,” said Levick. “The county cleans out hundreds of culverts throughout the county . . . I don’t think we’re talking about a lot of money.”
Norfolk Mayor Charlie Luke said staff is reluctant to take on the maintenance of the passageways but noted they run under a county-owned road. “Normally, it’s the county that maintains these drains,” he said.
Council has not debated the issue yet, Luke added. “My ears are wide open to hear the pros and cons . . . I think it’s up in the air at the moment.”
Wildlife Canada, which has just opened a new building on the causeway, has also been involved in the project.
Levick said he hopes the federal agency will help with maintenance, possible agreeing to take care of the fencing.
Construction will begin any day on the 12th and final underground passageway at the far north end of the causeway where the road meets the mainland.
It will be one of three aquatic passages that allow water to flow freely between the marsh on one side and the inner bay on the other.
Part of the work has included dredging channels on the marsh side to bring the water to the culverts.
The improvement project came about because of the large number of snakes and turtles – some of them endangered species – that were getting killed on the road, which connects the mainland to the sand spit known as Long Point.
Roadkill is down by 80 per cent since the start of the project, said Levick.
But the work is also designed to improve the health of the marsh. The flushing out of the marsh during storms will cleanse it and help restore the wetland to fish spawning habitat, said Levick.
In the 1950s, the causeway included a series of bridges under which the water flowed. As the bridges failed, the roadway was simply filled in, he said.
“We’re trying to put the relationship between the marsh and the bay to the way it was in the 1950s,” said Levick.