By Daniel R. Pearce, Simcoe Reformer
Thursday, August 16, 2012 6:35:54 EDT PM
LONG POINT – Construction will start this fall on three underground passageways that will take frogs, snakes, and turtles safely underneath the Long Point Causeway. The approval, given recently by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, marks another step in the transformation of the long narrow road between the mainland and the summer resort from a killing ground for endangered species to a non-factor in their existence.
Environmentalists have become increasingly concerned in recent years about the number of animals, especially certain types of turtles, lost on the road as they try to move from the marsh on the west side of the road to the inner bay and back again. The area is considered to be one of the most ecologically rich areas in Canada and has been declared a “world biosphere.”
Low fencing erected three years ago has prevented wildlife from crossing and will now be used to “funnel” them to the underground crossings, said Rick Levick, co-ordinator for the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project, the organization behind the project.
“We have a biosphere here and one of the deadliest roads for turtles in North America,” Levick said. “Many of our species are at risk. Long Point, except for the causeway, is a great habitat for them to survive.”
Two of the passageways will be simply concrete box squared tunnels, not unlike culverts found along rural roads throughout the county. But the third will be fed sunlight, heat, and fresh air from a grate placed on the roadway in order to attract animals turned off by dark, dank tunnels.
The LPCIP will monitor the tunnels to see which of the two styles works best before adding up to eight more passageways in the future, Levick said.
One of the concrete tunnels will be designed to allow water to flow back and forth between the marsh and the inner bay, a re-circulating of water that ended more than 50 years ago after a bridge on the causeway was replaced with roadway.
“We will put it back to the good old days,” Levick said.
Cost of constructing the three passageways is $585,000 including design and going through the approval process. Norfolk County owns the road but the price tag is being covered by the LPIC, which has raised close to $900,000 so far.
Tenders for the work will be issued soon. The job should take between three and four weeks to do and be completed by October, the county said in a media release.
Construction will be limited to weekdays when traffic will be reduced to one lane, the release said. “We do this kind of culvert construction all over the county without any problems,” said John Hamilton, Norfolk’s manager of engineering. “We’ll do our best to keep traffic disruption to a minimum.”
The long-term plan for the causeway calls for the addition of bike lanes and lookout spots along the road.
The project has not been without controversy. A group of residents from Long Point have opposed the project and say changes to the causeway are not necessary. Members of the Friends of the Causeway Association could not be immediately reached for comment.