COVID-19 UPDATE: The Harris Center has canceled or postponed all in-person programs and events through at least June 15. The Harris Center building will also be closed to visitors until June 15. Our trails and grounds remain open.

Keene to Close Second Road to Protect Migrating Amphibians

March 9, 2020
A Jefferson salamander makes its way across an unpaved road shoulder. This year, these salamanders will have a little extra help. (photo © Nathan Schaefer)

Safe Passage for Salamanders

Every year, on the first warm, rainy nights of spring, thousands of amphibians make their way to vernal pools to breed. Many are killed when they must cross busy roads. Since 2005, our Salamander Crossing Brigades have moved tens of thousands of amphibians to safety at dozens of road crossings throughout the Monadnock Region.

In 2018, the Keene City Council voted unanimously in favor of closing the North Lincoln Street amphibian crossing site to vehicle traffic on these “Big Nights” — ensuring the safety of migrating amphibians as well as the many families who come out to witness the migration each spring. In 2020, following two successful seasons of amphibian detours at North Lincoln Street, the City also agreed to move forward with more limited closures of the Jordan Road amphibian crossing site. Keene is the first community in New Hampshire to institute such measures, and their decision was based in large part on data collected by our Salamander Brigade volunteers, as well as a strong show of support from the community.

In the coming months, City staff will be working closely with the Harris Center to implement the road closures at both North Lincoln Street (outlined here) and Jordan Road (explained in greater detail below). Critter counts and salamander spot pattern photographs will continue at both sites, for data continuity and so that we can report on how many amphibians benefited from the decision to close both roads.

What part of Jordan Road will be closed to traffic?

Although the amphibian crossing is concentrated along a 0.2-mile wide stretch in the vicinity of Robin Hood Park, Jordan Road does not have any cross-streets that could facilitate a partial detour around this section of road. As a result, when the detours are in place, the road will be closed to through-traffic from Peg Shop Road all the way to Old Concord Road.

Residents and their guests will still be permitted to drive to and from their homes. If you live on Jordan Road, northwest of Robin Hood Park: you can avoid the crossing entirely simply by traveling to and from your home via Old Concord Road on amphibian migration nights. If you live on Jordan Road in the vicinity of Robin Hood Park or must otherwise access your home via Peg Shop Road: please drive slowly and exercise extreme caution, as amphibians and volunteers will likely be in the road.

Note: Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteers may also be at the crossing site on rainy nights when the road is not closed, as amphibian migrations often occur over the course of several evenings, but the road closures are limited to just one or two nights. All volunteers have been instructed to wear reflective vests and carry bright flashlights for increased visibility, and to step aside for cars. If it’s a rainy night from mid-March through early May, please drive with caution in the vicinity of Robin Hood Park.

When will the closures occur?

The amphibian migration is a weather-dependent phenomenon, so we cannot provide specific dates in advance. Generally speaking, Big Nights occur on the first warm (above 40° F), rainy nights of spring, after the ground has thawed. In Keene, this can happen anytime from mid-March through late April.

How can I find out if the road will be closed?

The decision to close the road will be made by noon on any given day. We will notify folks of the closure via the Harris Center citizen science and City of Keene Public Works Department Facebook pages. You don’t need to have a Facebook account in order to look at these links.

Will Jordan Road be closed whenever North Lincoln Street is closed?

Not necessarily. We have approval from the City of Keene to close North Lincoln Street for up to six migration nights, and to keep that road closed from sunset to sunrise. Because more people live along Jordan Road than along North Lincoln Street, the Jordan Road closures are more limited. In this trial year, the Jordan Road closures will only be (1) to through-traffic (allowing Jordan Road residents to drive to their homes); (2) during the time that Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteers are present (not the entire night); and (3) for up to two nights. While it’s likely that North Lincoln Street will be closed whenever Jordan Road is closed, there may also be nights when North Lincoln Street is closed and Jordan Road remains open.

How can I help with amphibian crossings when the road is closed?

Parking is very limited along Jordan Road, and some local traffic will still be passing through, even when the barricades are up. As a result, although families and other community members are welcome to visit the North Lincoln Street crossing site when that road is closed for amphibians, we ask that only trained Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteers in proper safety attire visit the Jordan Road crossing. Volunteers can pull off and park on the east side of the road, close to the intersection with Peg Shop Road.

Why Jordan Road?

Although fewer amphibians cross at Jordan Road than at North Lincoln Street, the Jordan Road crossing is notable for its concentration of Jefferson complex salamanders (pictured above), which are a Species of Conservation Concern in New Hampshire.

What about other crossing sites?

Frogs and salamanders at other sites will still have to rely on the helping hands of the Crossing Brigades, at least for now.

Closing two short stretches of road for a few nights each spring may seem like a small thing, but to the thousands of amphibians who call the Robin Hood Park ecosystem home − and to all of the Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteers who have helped shepherd them to safety year after year − it’s really not small at all.

For more information on the amphibian road closures or our Salamander Crossing Brigade program, please contact Brett Amy Thelen at (603) 358-2065 or by email.