Bayview Avenue extension, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada habitat creation and wildlife crossings in a contentious environmental setting: a case study (September 2005)
- Author(s): Gartshore, R. Geoffrey
- Purchase, Michelle
- Rook, Robert I.
- Scott, Leslie
- et al.
Bayview Avenue is an important north-south arterial road link in the road network of the York Region, Ontario, Canada. The roadway passes through a portion of the Oak Ridges Moraine (ORM), one of Ontario’s most significant landforms as recognized through the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act (2001) and Plan (2002). McCormick Rankin Corporation (MRC) and its subsidiary, Ecoplans Limited, were retained by the proponent, York Region, to plan and design the 4.5-km missing-link Bayview Avenue extension from Stouffville Road north to Bloomington Road. This two-lane rural roadway was planned and designed to support the Region’s growth (within the Greater Toronto area) while being sensitive to topography and natural-environmental features. Forest, wetland, and kettle features; Lake St. George Conservation Field Center uses; and wildlife habitat/movements were key resource issues and challenges recognized by the project team throughout the planning, design, and construction work. Accordingly, an innovative environmental-management and enhancement program was developed and implemented during the project. The objectives were to reduce and mitigate effects on the natural environment, provide habitat creation and wildlife passage, advance the body of environmental research and education, and secure agency approvals. The wetland-habitat creation project was developed in consultation with Education Centre field staff, and incorporated the following: a) creation of a three-cell experimental wetland complex outdoor “laboratory” located in a cultural meadow and connecting existing natural areas well removed from Bayview Avenue; b) protection of archaeological finds that were integrated in the wetland creation project; c) provision of trail and lookout zones; and d) provision of added habitat diversity in what was a cultural meadow. The planning and design of the roadway also integrated an amphibian-migration study and detailed literature review on wildlife crossings. In response to this work, recognition of the reported presence of the rare Jefferson Salamander in the area, and the desire to maximize roadway permeability for wildlife, dedicated amphibian tunnels were located and installed under the roadway. In addition, a three-span 81-meter bridge was installed across an open dry ravine to maintain the ORM landscape character and provide a 14-meter vertical clearance for wildlife movement. The Individual EA for the road project was successfully delivered in 1998 and the design was completed in 2001. The road was opened to traffic in 2002. Post-construction monitoring at the amphibian tunnels (spring 2003, 2004) and recent observations (2005) have confirmed use by a variety of species including small mammals, Wood Frog, American Toad, Leopard Frog, and Spring Peeper. Use by target salamanders has not yet been confirmed. Challenges encountered include water ponding in some tunnels and some landscape changes from residential development. Outdoor education uses of the created wetland area have been very positive and will likely expand in the future. In conclusion, the environmental-management program for the roadway was instrumental in securing agency approvals for the project. These efforts were also acknowledged by the naturalist community. The science of wildlife-crossing mitigation has been advanced and some challenges associated with tunnel design and landscape changes have been noted. Further tunnel monitoring has been recommended. Tangible environmental and educational benefits have been realized with the wetland-habitat creation project. The undertaking received the Canadian Consulting Engineers Award of Excellence in 2003.