Long Point Causeway Improvement Project

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causeway large

This road was killing 10,000 animals a year

The Long Point Causeway is a road built on a raised strip of landing connecting Long Point to the mainland. Since it cuts across a large marsh, it became a killing ground for everything that creeps and crawls. The Canadian Wildlife Service estimated that 10,000 animals died on this road annually. Another road mortality survey said the Causeway was the 5th deadliest road in the world for turtles.

A large number of local conservation organizations came together to do something about this. In the end it was decided to build a number of concrete passages under the road to allow wildlife to safely pass. Money and awareness was raised. Several of the passages are now installed with several more to come. Road mortality has already been reduced over 50%. It will be even lower when the rest of the ecopassages are finished. This has been a successful project that directly improved the local ecosystem and the community’s way of life. I’m extremely proud to be of service to this group.

Getting the word out

I was involved with the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project quite early in the process. Their Project Coordinator, Rick Levick, contacted me in 2008 and wanted a web site. He needed to get the word out about what the LPCIP wanted to do. Most people didn’t know about the issue, let alone the solution. There were also some lies to counter from a group of local idiots opposed to the project. So he needed a web site that would be like a megaphone, something that would allow him to say what he wanted clearly and without any distractions. I knew immediately that this job would be about removing the non-essential as much as anything else. Nothing could get in the way of the message.

Web design, circa 2008

At the time I was just learning to write my own WordPress themes from scratch. This is probably the oldest one that I kept around. It’s simple, but does the job. The front page is static, to highlight whatever Rick wants. Rick can use the built-in blogging functions to post his own news stories. The sidebar only has two elements: one block of links to the latest stories posted, and another block of contact info. There’s no distracting elements here and the intended flow of reading is very obvious. These are essential points for any kind of advocacy site.

Sadly, this site is not responsive. Responsive design didn’t really catch on until 2012 or so. As soon as I saw this method, I knew it would change the world of web design forever. Like a smart monkey, I adapted rather than died. But this site was made about 4 years before that. That’s why it’s fixed width and centered, like most sites were those days. I stretched the banner across the top to break up this blockiness somewhat. Green and blue seemed obvious choices for a color scheme.

The nicest graphic on the site is the logo, which isn’t mine. It was made by Jane Thomson of Over the Moon Graphic Design. I have worked with Jane on at least a dozen sites now, probably more. She is the first person I go to when it comes to custom artwork. She’s helped out many local groups and charities, particularly environmental ones. If you’ve got print media to design, she’s my recommendation.

I added a gallery to showcase the large number of excellent photos the LPCIP have. They have several professional photographers in their ranks. I also put together a little photo essay about the history of the causeway that is interesting to look at.

Paring it down to the essential

This is a deceptively simple appearing site. I had to edit a fair bit of code to make it that plain. I built my own minimalist theme. I stripped out all the unneccessary info within WordPress itself for posts, sidebars, etc. I even changed the code of the gallery plugin to remove most of it’s user interface. In each case these small removals improved the site by removing distractions.

You need a real programmer to make a site your own

I can make these kinds of modifications because I know how to code. Many people that call themselves web developers can’t. They can install WordPress, and they can install plugins and commercial themes, but when you ask them to change any element of it (even just to remove something you don’t like) they’ll start making excuses about how it just “comes that way” or “that’s a limitation of WordPress” or whatever. When you ask me to change something, I say “ok”, find the relevant code, and change it. You want a web developer who can do this if you want your site to reflect your own tastes and desires. Otherwise you’re stuck with whatever you get, and your site will probably look the same as everyone else’s.

How I worked with the LPCIP

I should talk briefly about how I’ve worked with Rick Levick, who is my primary contact with the LPCIP.

First, we’ve been working together for seven years. Long term, mutually rewarding business relationships are the only kind I do.

Second, I’ve helped Rick with many office support tasks over the years. This Project doesn’t have secretarial staff. Sometimes Rick needs someone with the skills of a good administrative assistant, but not often enough to warrant hiring such a person. So he relies on me. I’ve helped him generate annual reports of web traffic analysis for his board meetings. I’d made pdf excerpts of books the Project sells for fundraising, and set up their Paypal account to process these sales. I’ve done research, and proof-reading. I help Rick with more complicated multi-media posts. Any time he needs something he just fires off an email to me.

Small office tasks billed out in 15 minute increments

I bill in 15 minute increments ($50/hour) so it’s very affordable. If you’re a business person there’s nothing more valuable than your time. Rick directly gains time every time he delegates something to me, because I can do something in minutes that might take him hours. He’ll be the first to tell you this is a truly excellent deal.

With some clients, these small incremental charges amount to no more than one or two of billable hours added to their annual web hosting bill. If you need my help more often than that, I’ll send you a small bill a few times a year. I’m pretty informal about such things, once we’ve done a little business together.