Long Point Causeway Improvement Project


Causeway upgrade moves forward

By Daniel Pearce, Simcoe Reformer, July 8, 2010

The first step in a controversial proposal to upgrade the causeway to Long Point is about to begin after municipal officials voted last night to move to the design stage.

Norfolk County will now look at how to run three culverts under the narrow two-lane roadway to create a safe passageway — from the marsh on the west side of the causeway to the inner bay on the east — for both water and reptiles.

As well, an environmental assessment and a hydrological study will be conducted to make sure the project is feasible and won’t cause more harm than good.A couple of people in the council gallery, supporters of the group of environmentalists who are advocating for the change, burst into applause after the vote went through.

Rick Levick, chair of the Long Point Improvement Project Steering Committee, said his group has just been awarded $400,000 in federal and provincial funding for the project and asked the county — which owns the road and must approve of any changes — to move ahead on the upgrades.

His group, Levick said, now has the money to cover the construction of the first two culverts and should be able to raise the rest for a larger third one.

The steering committee formed four years ago to plan upgrades to the causeway, which they say is damaging the environment in the area.

Turtles and snakes are killed in alarming numbers every year trying to cross to and from the inner bay, they say, while the marsh is stagnating because its water no longer flows underneath the causeway into the bay.

Their plans have run into stiff opposition from a group of residents who live on the causeway right from the start. The residents claim the upgrades are unnecessary.

Both groups have made numerous presentations to council over the past two years.

Last night, elected officials welcomed the idea of upgrading the road covering a long narrow sand spit which runs from the mainland to Long Point.

Simcoe Coun. Charlie Luke noted “there are valued points on both sides” of the argument, but added the decision is a “move in the right direction.”

Port Rowan Coun. John Hunt, whose ward includes Long Point, voted in favour of the project.

“If we don’t kickstart it now, it will drag on another year and another year. It’s a baby step, but it’s a step to move it along at no cost to the taxpayer,” he said.

Charlotteville Coun. Jim Oliver said the environmental assessment “gives all of us, proponents and opponents and the county, the chance to see if these two or three things will do what the experts say they will do.”

In the long run, the committee also wants to add a bike path, plant trees along the road, and create lookouts.

A steel culvert with holes at the top to let air and sunlight in is being studied, said Levick, who explained that research shows animals shy away from cold dark tunnels.

Over the past couple of years, the group has added turtle crossing signs to warn motorists and put up temporary fencing to prevent reptiles from climbing out of the marsh and onto the road.

But Tuesday night’s decision by council, Levick said, should result in the first “permanent” changes to the causeway.