By ASHLEY HOUSE, Simcoe Reformer
The willow and cottonwood trees along the causeway out to Long Point will not be cut down, says the latest policy statement from the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project steering committee.
Rick Levick, co-ordinator of the project, said the committee wants to be “loud and clear” on the subject. The initial project did call for the cutting down of some of the picturesque trees to allot for a wider roadway and other safety improvements to the 3.5 km of road. But the group has responded to the public’s concerns.
“The (LPCIP) is committed to working with the community and Norfolk County to define a vision and comprehensive landscape plan that includes the retention of existing trees,” the policy reads.
“We feel this adjustment to the plan will still meet our goals,” Levick said.
The project calls for planting Carolinian species of trees, shrubs and plants.
“We have to start thinking now for when the trees die,” Levick said. “So, 50 years from now, people still drive under a canopy of trees when they drive down the causeway.”
The LPCIP hopes to reduce wildlife mortality on the road leading into Long Point by creating eco-passages, rehabilitating habitats and installing fences. They also want to make a safer road and capitalize on tourism opportunities by adding more wildlife viewing areas and adding a trail along the causeway.
A group of concerned citizens opposed the estimated $15 million project, saying it was unnecessary, will ruin the causeway’s landscape and hurt the taxpayer. In January, the group banded together and called themselves Friends of the Causeway, or FOCAS.
Since then, the LPCIP committee has sat down with representatives from FOCAS, on two occasions to discuss concerns and differing opinions of the LPCIP.
“There are some points that we have the potential for agreement, including the non-removal of trees,” said Stu Ross, spokesperson for FOCAS. “They’ve been receptive to the public’s concerns.”
But the group is still butting heads on if wildlife, especially reptile, mortality is an issue on the causeway.
FOCAS doesn’t think there’s a problem, while the LPCIP said it has the research to prove turtles and snakes are getting killed at an alarming rate because of the road running through their habitat.
“To be honest, we have a lot more expertise, research and been at this for a longer time,” Levick said.
FOCAS is also against the LPCIP’s vision for a walkway.
Levick said the vision is still conceptual but in theory it would be wide trail shared by pedestrians and bikers on the west side of the causeway, with a buffer of trees to ensure a safe distance from the road.
FOCAS is holding another public meeting this Saturday at the Port Rowan Community Centre at 10 a.m.
There, they will reveal their ideas on how best to implement a walking trail along the causeway as well as answer questions from the community.