By DANIEL PEARCE, SIMCOE TIMES-REFORMER
Rick Levick stood at the side of the Long Point causeway with four newly-planted trees sticking up in the air a few metres behind him on the edge of the marsh.
“This is the first of the forest,” Levick exclaimed shortly before an official ceremony on Monday afternoon in which the mayor patted the final shovelfuls of dirt around a tree.
The sycamore, elm, and tulip trees that went into the ground on the south end of the causeway marked the start of a campaign that will see hundreds more planted before the end of the year. Other Carolinian species that thrive in Norfolk’s micro-climate such as red and silver Maples and the county’s emblem, the flowering dogwood, will join them on both sides of the causeway, a narrow winding 3.6-kilometre long road that joins the mainland to Long Point.
The planting is part of an overall multi-million dollar project to upgrade the causeway. Plans call for culverts to go underneath the road to allow both water and reptiles such as turtles and snakes to move back and forth freely from the marsh to the inner bay. A bike path to run next to the road is also being considered.
On Monday, officials walked gingerly from the road’s edge to the trees for the ceremony. Water levels are unusually high this year and have left the sides of the causeway so muddy further planting has been postponed until fall. When the tree part of the project is finished, it will create a forested corridor that will act as a conduit for birds to travel off the point to the deep-forest corridors created in recent years on the mainland — thickets of trees that give them the isolation they need to thrive.
“They will stop and rest in the trees. Some will nest there,” explained Brian Craig, president of the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve. Right now, the causeway is lined with aging and dying poplars and willows. Some sections don’t have any trees at all.
The new planting “will bring this whole eco-system back into balance,” said Levick, co-ordinator for the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project, as well as fill in the “gap-toothed” sections.
It will improve the aesthetics of the roadway and “give people the chance to see trees you wouldn’t see unless you were walking way back in Backus Woods,” Levick added. County staff will have to wait until drier weather to finish the job, which also includes planting bushes and shrubs.
The real impact on the landscape won’t be noticed for many years until everything has grown up. “We’re doing this for the benefit of our grandchildren,” Levick noted. “If we were not planting now, there would be no trees on the causeway in the future.”
The trees and shrubs are being paid for with a $10,000 donation from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.