HOW CAN WE BUILD A SAFER ENVIRONMENT FOR PEOPLE AND ANIMALS THROUGH WILDLIFE BRIDGES?

Awards

catalyst-for-change-prize goa-citation
Habitat Corridor and Nature Center in Connecticut

By Brecon Welch

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that I am addressing with this project are life on land, sustainable cities and communities, industry innovation and infrastructure, and climate action. 

Purpose

My main goal in designing this project is to create a safer environment for both animals and humans on the highway, in particular the Merritt Parkway. The Merritt connects many Connecticut towns and is known for its scenic views as it is surrounded by forests on either side. Since there are so many roadkill accidents, I wanted to find a way to reduce this (what I believe to be) easily avoidable problem and consequently improve the safety of drivers and wildlife. It also would be used to provide light for the highway. As my project progressed, I decided to design an additional nature center that would help to raise awareness about the issue of roadkill accidents.

Visual for how dangerous it is for animals to cross the Merritt Parkway
Project Needs:

In just Connecticut alone, thousands of animals are killed every year by cars. For this project, I will be focusing on the Merrit Parkway, one of two main highways in Connecticut, since it is surrounded by forests on both sides and therefore has more wildlife. Because of the many animals, the winding roads, and a lack of lamps for night driving, there are lots of accidents that occur between animals and cars which end up injuring or killing the animals (and possibly the humans too) as well as damaging the cars of the people driving them. It also potentially dents the highway barriers. Creating habitat corridors or what I like to call “nature bridges” would not only protect wildlife and humans, but it would also add more greenery to the highways. Additionally, I would add lights on the entrance, exit, and/or underneath part of these bridges because that would help with the problem of the lack of lighting on the roads and make it safer for both drivers and animals.

Users:

The wildlife bridge space will be used by local animals like deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, raccoons, foxes, opossums, and even bears and moose who will cross over the highways on the bridges. It will also be used by drivers since the bridge will provide light as they approach and drive under the bridge. 

The nature center will be mostly used by local residents, citizens of neighboring towns, and potentially for field trips as it is located on the local park grounds, Waveny Park.


BEGINNING OF THE PROCESS: INSPIRATION

CASE STUDIES

I looked at three wildlife bridges from three different countries in order to see what made each bridge successful so that I could combine all those attributes in my design. The first habitat corridor I looked at was one that crosses the I-70 highway in Colorado which used fencing to guide animals and prevent them from going into the road. It also mentioned the use of cameras to record which animals use the bridge and when which I thought would be a good idea to include in my project as I could have the live stream playing in the Nature Center so that people could watch how the animals migrate.

The second bridge I used for inspiration was the Banff National Park Overpass in Alberta, Canada since it crosses a highway similar to the Merritt Parkway and has two arches with a pillar in the middle like what I was thinking about for my design. The main takeaway was the importance of limiting the noise from the highway in order to encourage animals to use the bridge by including more trees and plants. There is also a clear wire fence on the bridge which prevents the wildlife from jumping or falling off when crossing while also not ruining any sightlines of the landscape views for drivers.

Finally, I looked at a habitat bridge in Seoul, South Korea that connected the peaks of two mountains in the Mount Umyeon and Maljukgeori parks. The unique design and ability to provide access for both humans and animals was very interesting to see and I liked how it mimicked the mountain terrain. The most appealing aspect for me is how eco-friendly the bridge is with its built-in water collection and distribution system that allows it to self-sustainably maintain the greenery. This was one of my concerns because I didn’t want to burden any workers to have to take care of the plants on the bridge so that nothing would overgrow and become a hazard on the road. I noticed that the structure is also made of steel which I had planned to use anyway but it reassured me that I made the right decision for material choice. 

ANALYSIS OF THE SITE

THE DESIGN PROCESS

Bubble Diagrams
Site Plan
Floor Plan
My preliminary sketches

RESPONDING TO FEEDBACK

Listening to the constructive comments left by both my teacher and peers helped me immensely as I came closer to the finished product because I was able to see what parts of my project were missing in order for my audience to get a full picture of what I was trying to accomplish.

THE FINISHED RESULT

While I did experience setbacks with the SketchUp software, I’m proud that I was able to finish my work and think about a new way to respond to a problem that occurs daily and affects not only animals but humans as well.

Some Last Takeaways:

  • My Catalyst Project evolved over the course from just a wildlife bridge to designing a nature center as well to educate younger and older generations alike.
  • I wanted to make the building environmentally friendly so I conducted an interview with a Greenwich Audubon employee who told me how they were able to create such a sustainable center
  • I learned that one of the main ways they do this is through a Geothermal HVAC system which I implemented in my building as well. This HVAC system is much better for the environment than Conventional systems which use electricity or the burning of natural gas to heat air when it’s cold out and electrical refrigeration to cool the air when it is hot. For the Geothermal HVAC system, it is the Earth that heats itself and cools the building.

Thank you so much for reading about my project and feel free to leave any feedback or questions you may have in the comments!

Guiding Questions:

1) Do you think Wildlife Bridges would be a helpful response to the problem of roadkill and the inability of animals to migrate freely?

2) Do you think a nature center is a good way to raise awareness for this issue?

3) Are roadkill accidents a problem in your community that needs addressing?

 

 

 

 

20 Comments

20 comments

  1. Hi Brecon,
    Your project idea is amazing and super interesting. I live in Brazil, where we don’t face this kind of problem very often. It is super cool to see how different this is in the US. Your sketches and model look incredible and I really enjoyed reading all your ideas. Your process is also super detailed and easy to follow.

  2. Brecon!! I loved seeing your project all the way through!!! This is amazing!

  3. Hi Brecon, I really like your idea of the wildlife bridge, as well as how the nature center would tie into it. I think the bridge is really well designed, but I was wondering why there is a wall or something on the side of the bridge that connects to the woods. Other than that I think your designs are really good, especially how the nature center has an open classroom. Overall I think you did a great job.

  4. Hi Brecon, I thought your wildlife bridge was amazing, heartwarming, and what you want it to achieve is wonderful! I do not live in the US or near very green areas, so this is not an issue that really comes up in my daily life, but thinking back to when lived in the US, I have seen this happen and it hurt my heart (question3).
    To answer your first question, I think that this is a wonderful way to solve the issue and your question. However, I think that animals may be cautious or at first scared or worried about an unfamiliar element. Yet, it seems as though it has succeeded in other areas (case studies) so if it is developed into a home-like atmosphere for the animals, they might be more comfortable!
    Next, yes, I think that it is a great way to raise awareness about this issue. Some people may not be aware that this happens, and by educating people about this issue, it may help it to grow and possibly be implemented in other areas of the country and the US as well.
    Nice job!!!

  5. Brecon, I thoroughly enjoyed reading through and exploring the visuals of your project. I know the Merritt Parkway well, and I definitely see the need for a project/solution like your wildlife bridge. As an educator, I really appreciate the addition of the nature center – what a wonderful way to raise awareness of this issue in your community while also providing an opportunity for students and teachers to visit and learn. I’m inspired by your work!

  6. Great job! I loved seeing the detailed progress that you provided in terms of your design process and everything. In terms of your 3rd question, roadkill and animal impacts are absolutely a problem in my community. This is mostly due to how many forests there are in my area and I think something like the bridge you designed would help a lot!

  7. Hi Brecon,

    1) Do you think Wildlife Bridges would be a helpful response to the problem of roadkill and the inability of animals to migrate freely?
    I really enjoyed reading your project on wildlife bridges. Although I don’t think it will totally eliminate all roadkill, I definitely think having wildlife bridges could really help mitigate roadkill. In fact, according to National Geographics, wildlife bridges could achieve a 85-95% reduction in animal crossings (which would probably result in similar decreases in roadkill). Furthermore, I think the implementation of wildlife bridges could help reduce the impact of habitat fragmentation caused by highways.

    2) Do you think a nature center is a good way to raise awareness for this issue?
    I definitely think a nature center could be a way to spread awareness; however, I think other alternatives that may be cheaper is to use the internet (or maybe a mixture of both). Nowadays, everybody is spending their time on social media and google. Using the web as a means to spread awareness may reach a wider audience.

    3) Are roadkill accidents a problem in your community that needs addressing?
    Nobody in my close surroundings have been involved in roadkill accidents but they’re definitely a problem in my community. My city is known to be filled with wildlife, and in many nearby highways there are always bears/deers crossing roads. I definitely think my community should put more effort into protecting these animals.

  8. I loved your project idea even though it was a little bit of a strange topic. i didn’t know this would be such a problem and I am still not sure of how you even came up with this brilliant project. interesting topic choice but it really worked well for me in the end ♡

  9. Hi Brecon, I was really surprised when I read your title because I never even thought of creating a bridge for this project which I think is an excellent Idea. I used to live in Singapore and I vaguely remember seeing one or two of these green bridges. I loved viewing your project and seeing your own take on this intersting idea. Great Job!

  10. Hi Brecon! This idea is so creative. I found your case studies very interesting. In response to your questions: Yes, I think these bridges would be an important part of preventing roadkill accidents although the placement will have to be very well thought-out as to justify the cost of such a project. I’m thinking that maybe the architects could work with zoologists to determine where migration patterns take place. Yes, I think a nature center is a good way to raise awareness. Where I live the main issue is deer and the danger to drivers when hitting a deer. Great Job!

  11. Hi Brecon! I love this idea so much! Roadkill is a problem where I live too and I think nature bridges would be a perfect way to help animals cross the dangerous streets and prevent accidents. I think they are especially important, as well, on those major highways as cars don’t have time to slow down. I also think your nature center is a great way to spread awareness and educate learners on your bridge and showing animals in action crossing the bridge would be a great thing to add like you mentioned. Nice work!

  12. I liked Brecon’s project because she is doing it for a good cause to protect the animals being killed on the road. Her sketchup drawing looked well done and professional. I liked the way she included the trees over to bridge to keep it from looking all man made. 

  13. Hey Brecon! I love this idea. It is a chance for people to see how animals and nature interact without disturbing it. It also causes a lot less roadkill. Everyday driving on the interstate there are so many injured animals and this would help so much!

  14. Hi Brecon! I loved your project! Roadkill is a huge issue in my area and this is a really smart way to make the road safer for both wildlife and drivers! I liked your idea of spreading awareness through a nature center. It is really cool how you would have plants and growth on the bridge for the animals and would make for a very pretty bridge too! I think the bridge you took inspiration from in South Korea was especially unique and well-thought out.Good job!

  15. Hey Brecon! This idea is very new and interesting to me. I have never seen nor heard of a wildlife bridge and it intrigues me. It looks very cool and I can see multiple uses for something like this. We can alter this in many ways to support wildlife but other natural areas as well. The models and pictures serve well as a guideline of what it may look like. Very cool and innovative idea!

  16. Hi Brecon. I really enjoyed reading your presentation. Your final designs turned out great, and I think they will act as a good solution. I know a lot of busy parkways and highways in my area that would benefit from this wildlife bridge idea, and I think this is an effective response to the problem of roadkill.

  17. Hi Brecon! I really enjoyed reading your presentation and see your project completed and final. Your work is very intricate and covers various SDGs as well as allows me to think about roadkill accidents around the world and their impacts. I think Wildlife Bridges is a helpful response to the roadkill problems and helps animals to migrate freely. I also like your inclusion of the nature center in order to educate people more about a new issue that is present in your area. In Jordan or Saudi, where I live, there aren’t many roadkill accidents that I know of. However, with your project, I am able to think more about the accidents that might be present to the animals on the road.

  18. Hey Brecon, I really love your finished result. I drive on the Merrit all the time and it would be enjoyable to experience driving under this and taking a stop at the observation area to view all the wildlife. It’s a great approach to helping the wildlife and your idea to have a place to chill and admire the wildlife bridge is original. Nice job!

  19. Hi Brecon! You did an amazing job on your project! I have had the unfortunate experiences of seeing roadkill near where I live and I think wildlife bridges like yours would be a great idea to incorporate in highways all over! I can tell how thoughtful you were about the needs of both the animals and humans who would be using the bridge and it paid off! I think the addition of the center to educate people about wildlife was a great add-on to your project as well!

  20. Hi Brecon! This looks super cool and impressive; you are very creative and passionate about this topic! This super innovative and your thought process was very great. I definitely have always agreed on how we disrupt animal’s environments but I never really knew how to change it, but this – I would have never come up with. Great job!

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