Dutch roads are busy and the driving is fast. At the same time, you almost never see any roadkill. What you do see are wide bridges spanning the motorway covered in trees and wildflowers. The first time I saw one I had no idea what to make of it. The greenery seemed out of place on a highway overpass, but that is the nature of the Dutch ecoduct, the wildlife crossing which allows animals access to fragmented habitats while avoiding lethal contact with cars. What’s not to love about a country that protects is animals to this extent?
Driving under the ecoduct. Note the trees above the road. The path flanking the road is for bikes, so they are also safe. (Naturrbrug Zanderij Crailo, one of our local ecoducts.) Photo Credit: Door M.Minderhoud – Eigen werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=872710
The Netherlands boasts over 600 tunnels and overpasses to protect many species such as the European Badger, wild boar, and deer. There are two ecoducts in my neighborhood, and one of them is the largest in the Netherlands and the longest in the world. The Naturrbrug Zanderij Crailo is 800 meters long and 50 meters wide. Finished in 2006, it spans a highway, a railway, a river, a sports complex, and a golf course. It is also accessible to bikers and pedestrians, and the other day I walked its length with my writer friend Clarissa Gosling.
Clari leading the charge over the ecoduct.
We started out early before the day’s heat built. It has been incredibly hot and sunny here for a good long stretch, but we earned it over the winter, when it rained everyday. Additionally, the summer sun does does not set until after 10:00, which we also earned over the endlessly gray winter.
To get to the ecoduct, we first crossed the heath. Access to the ecoduct is through a gate designed to keep the local herds of cattle wandering the heath from crossing the bridge. The path leads on. Crossing the ecoduct. This path goes over the motorway, the railway, a sports complex, a river, and a golfcourse. We shared it with bikers. Note the fencing to the right to make sure animals stay safe. Welcoming shade on the other side of the ecoduct.
There is much hope in the concept of the ecoduct as an example of how conservation and progress can work together. It shows human endeavor does not have to mean continued habitat destruction, and that corporate interest does not have to lead to extinction. Walking the ecoduct felt like a journey into a more balanced world, a world where the interests of all, including nature and animals, drivers, golfers, train passengers, pedestrians, and bikers, were considered in such a way as to make it possible for all to flourish. Imagine what the US could do if this kind of thinking could be supported by political will.
Mary Petiet is a reporter, writer, and storyteller. Her work is inspired by both her native Cape Cod, where she covers the local farm beat for Edible Cape Cod magazine and her experiences in the Netherlands. Mary is the author of Minerva’s Owls, (Homebound Publications) finalist in the American Book Fest’s Best Book Awards 2017, religion and spirituality. Minerva’s Owls remembers the divine feminine to re-envision the world. Mary is currently dividing her time between Cape Cod and the Netherlands.