The Long Point Causeway Improvement Project is a community-based effort to revitalize the 3.5 kilometre-long causeway that links the Long Point Peninsula on Lake Erie with mainland southern Ontario. The Project began in October 2006.
The improved Causeway could also provide ancillary social benefits including improved road safety and enhanced recreational opportunities while maintaining the rural character of the Long Point countryside.
As a first step, a $40,000 contract was awarded to Ecoplans Limited of Kitchener, Ontario to conduct a feasibility study of potential improvements that would reduce wildlife mortality and restore the hydrological connections between Big Creek Marsh and Long Point Inner Bay.
The Project is managed by a Steering Committee which includes representatives from Bird Studies Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Parks Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Norfolk County, the Norfolk Land Stewardship Council, the Long Point Region Conservation Authority, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, the Norfolk Field Naturalists, the Long Point Country Chamber of Commerce, the Long Point Anglers Association, the Long Point Waterfowlers' Association, the Toronto Zoo, and the Ruffed Grouse Society. There are also three individual citizen members who are well-known in the local community.
The Committee receives administrative and management support from the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation, which promotes research, monitoring, education and projects that support the goals of conservation and sustainable use in the Biosphere Reserve.
The study was completed in April 2008 and recommended the following improvements:
- 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 for downloading on this site and for review at the Port Rowan Public Library as well as the complete causeway map.
- The Causeway was constructed in 1927-1928 to provide access to the Long Point beaches from the mainland.
- On average, nearly 2300 car trips are made across the causeway every day between April and October (2005 data). Four times this number of cars crosses the causeway on summer weekends.
- It is estimated that 10,000 animals die on the causeway annually, according to surveys by the Canadian Wildlife Service - Environment Canada (CWS). Most are leopard frogs but 99 other species of frogs, turtles, snakes, birds, and mammals have been run over including rare and endangered species.
- So many turtles are being run over at Long Point that the causeway is now ranked the 5th deadliest road in the world for turtles.
- The Big Creek Marsh acts as a giant natural kidney for the entire watershed. Because the marsh now has only one outlet into Long Point Bay, sediment and pollution-laden water now flows directly into the bay instead of being purified by the marsh.