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Bass Lake Road and the Blanding’s Turtle

How a threatened species living near the busy Maple Grove roadway prompted a few curbing modifications in the reconstruction project.

With the construction season starting to wind down, the Blanding’s turtle on Bass Lake Road hasn’t been forgotten.

“The Bass Lake Road project is very near completion.  Over the next few weeks there will be a flurry of activity, centered mostly around Elm Creek, as the final pieces of curb are placed and the final areas are paved,” Maple Grove Transportation Operations Engineer Marc Culver wrote in an email to Patch. “Quite a bit of work is left at the Lawndale and Bass Lake Road intersection as well.”

The multi-year project hasn’t come without its challenges along the way, including making accommodations for a threatened species living near the area – the Blanding’s turtle.

The Blanding’s turtle is considered a “threatened” species in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and has been listed as threatened in the state since 1984.

“In this particular case, this is a known habitat area for these turtles,” Culver said of the Bass Lake Road project. “The DNR raised some concerns about the impact that we were going to have on these turtles.”

As a result, project planning stage, special verbiage was put in the constructions documents to watch out for the turtles and use a different type of curbing in certain areas. Due to the wetland area, only the Bass Lake Road portion east of Vicksburg Lane was impacted.

“We were taking a rural road, which had ditches and was flat, and putting in curb and gutter,” Culver said. “The problem with curb and gutter is that the turtles can’t easily climb over the curb and get off of the road. They can get on pretty easily, but once they are on the road, they have a problem getting off.”

The DNR asked whether there was a need for curb and gutter along the Bass Lake Road project, according to Culver, indicating it not only helps prevent vehicles from leaving the road by provides drainage for water instead of ditches.

“What we came up with, in various locations where we thought turtles might be crossing, we put in surmountable curb. We call it ‘turtle curb’ for this project,” he said. “The curb still has a rise to it, but it’s more like neighborhood curb [sloped]. The turtle could theoretically climb up the curb and get off of the roadway.”

Overall, there is about 1,500 feet of ‘turtle curb’ installed along the roadway – split into 100-foot sections throughout the project. 

“It’s the only place I know of in Maple Grove that we have used the curb in response to the concern about the turtle,” Culver said, indicating the idea isn’t new to the area and communities such as Champlin have used a similar concept on French Lake Road.

As for the Bass Lake Road project itself, Culver says they “fully anticipate” the majority of the construction to be done by the end of September 2012. Some work will still continue outside of the curbing area as “final restoration” of the area is completed.

“The city is very excited to finish this project this fall and we are very anxious for the public to realize the full benefits of the additional roadway capacity as well as the new trails and corridor aesthetics,” Culver said.

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Dave N September 20, 2012 at 06:32 PM
It will be nice when they finally finish this thing. It seems a lot of time and effort was spent on putting in that tall bridge over the tiny creek, which happens to be in the center of the 2nd picture. Does anyone know why they did that rather than just do a simple low bridge that - I would think - would've been cheaper and faster?
Therese Noren September 23, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I think the turtle curb is great!
Therese Noren September 23, 2012 at 04:20 PM
I don't know, but I would venture to guess that one reason was to level the roadway because that steep slope down to the creek bottom could get really slick in the winter. I also wonder if they are doing it to allow for wildlife passage under the road. I used to work overnights and driving that road at 4:00 in the morning was the worst for both of these reasons, so I am glad they've gone higher with it. What I wish I knew about is that styrofoam they've used.

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