Keene to Close Road to Protect Migrating Amphibians

March 8, 2018
A wood frog makes her way across North Lincoln Street in Keene. This year, she’ll have a little extra help. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

A Conservation Milestone

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.

We’re excited to report that 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.

Keene is the first community in New Hampshire to institute such a measure. Their decision was based in large part on data collected by, and a strong show of support from, our Salamander Brigade volunteers.

During salamander season — which runs from mid-March through early May — City staff will work closely with the Harris Center to implement the road closures at North Lincoln Street. Road access and parking will change a bit at that site on Big Nights, but the critter counts and salamander spot pattern photographs will continue, for continuity of our data and so that we can report on how many amphibians benefited from the decision to close the road.

What part of the road will be closed to traffic?

When the detours are in place, the road will be closed from George Street to the southwest corner of Robin Hood Park, just north of the junction with Beaver Street. (See a map.) The detours will be in effect from approx. 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next morning.

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 be on Facebook in order to look at these links.

How can I access the site when the road is closed?

UPDATE for 2021: In past springs, we’ve had up to 50 people a night visit North Lincoln Street to witness the spectacle of the amphibian migration. While we celebrate (and share!) this herpetological enthusiasm, crowds of that size — even outdoors — are simply not safe during a pandemic. In order to keep group sizes small and safe, we are seeking the public’s help in limiting human presence at the North Lincoln Street crossing site on Big Nights in 2021 to Harris Center staff and trained Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteers only. If all goes well, the family-friendly frog fest vibe will return to North Lincoln Street in 2022.

If you are a trained volunteer who wants to help count critters at North Lincoln Street and you live nearby, it’s best to walk. If you need to get there by car, park in the southeast section of Woodland Cemetery, near the North Lincoln Street gate. When North Lincoln Street is closed to traffic, you’ll need to access the cemetery via the Beaver Street entrance. All other cemetery entrances will be gated. Drive carefully through the cemetery after dark, as frogs may be hopping on through!

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 one short stretch 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, including everyone who came out to the standing-room-only meeting in support of the road closure proposal − 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.