I remember some time ago there was a plan to build tunnels under the renovated Garden State Parkway so that the area wildlife could cross the Parkway safely. The plan was to spend 9 million dollars for the project.

Ambitious yes; crazy, guess what, maybe not!

You have to ask yourself, “will they be able to find the tunnels in the first place?”

Last night when I talked about the encroaching critters dotting the Central Jersey landscape, some posters took issue with my having called Animal Control to get rid of a raccoon that took refuge in my window well.

The main complaint was that “they were there first!”

Well, here’s another plan to accommodate the wildlife!

Township officials are looking to spend more than $210,000 on a series of tunnels that won’t be used by motorists, cyclists or pedestrians.

Instead, the tunnels will help some of the most frequent users of the township’s River Road: frogs, newts and the endangered wood turtle.

The state last week awarded the township $180,000 in a federal Transportation Enhancement grant to help pay for the project. Federal TE grants can be used for environmental mitigation, such as reducing wildlife deaths caused by vehicles by building critter tunnels under roadways.

Such tunnels are usually a target of government-spending watchdogs. But township and state environmental officials believe the project will help do its part protecting an endangered species.

John P. Parke, a stewardship project director for New Jersey Audubon said, “these species are part of our natural heritage, and these species must be protected and saved so that future generations can experience their presence and value.” “The tunnels also benefit drivers by aiding to keep animals off roads and can help create safer driving conditions.”

The wood turtle, which makes its home in the wooded River Road Park area and the North Branch of the Raritan River near Routes 202/206, has been a source of controversy for the township for several years. Nearly a decade ago, the discovery of dead turtles on the roadway put the kibosh on an ambitious plan to build athletic fields and facilities in the area. Officials also installed caution signs alerting motorists to the turtles.

Township engineer Paul Ferriero said the plan is to build three, 12-inch diameter tunnels at yet-to-be-determined locations under the road, which the turtles and other wildlife use to travel from the wooded areas to their ponds.

State Division of Fish and Wildlife zoologist Brian Zarate said critters are more likely to use the tunnels when they are guided to them by temporary fencing that blocks their access to the roadway.

The wood turtle, once fairly common before its inclusion on the state’s endangered species list in 1979, wouldn’t be the only wildlife that would benefit from this project. A 2010 Montclair State University study counted 613 specimens of 13 species — mostly American toads, green frogs and red-spotted newts — crossing the road between March and April of that year.

The $180,000 grant was among 29 TE grants worth $10.3 million awarded last week.

Ordinarily I'd say we could put that 180 grand to better use, like fixing roads.

I know, they were there first!

But here's the deal, it gets me sick to hit one!
And just think of the damage hitting one can do to your front end!

About a few weeks ago, I hit something in the road that had to be a turtle. It was hard and took out a bumper.
Since then, since the car already had 180 thousand miles on it, I said "screw it" and bought another car...which I needed anyway.

Just think of all the front ends you can save by building the tunnels.