What’s Up with the Corduroy Road?

First of all, Mayor Sue Foxton of North Dumfries Township wants you to know that North Dumfries still has a lot of corduroy roads. A million snappy jokes jumped into my head, but I like North Dumfries and Mayor Sue is doing a good job!

The one pictured above is, of course, the corduroy road found under King St. in Uptown Waterloo on March 11 when the asphalt road was dug up to put in utilities and set up the new Ion light rail line. An archeologist had to come and examine it and his findings are going to the provincial heritage ministry for approval before work can begin again on the Ion construction. The road is the original Mennonite road built before 1800 by cutting down the standing trees to make the road. You can see large stumps also that became part of the road.

Uptown Waterloo and indeed much of the surrounding housing on Euclid, Alexandra, up to where I used to live on Beverley St, are on the site of the Beverley Swamp. Even today, many houses in this area have sump pumps due to the high ground water levels.

The logs of the road were put over the swamp so horses and carts and people could traverse the swamp ( or as we say today, wetland). Over time, the road was buried and the ground built up. The basement at the Waterloo Hotel where you can descend to a store or bar (depending on who is renting)  is what remains of the original ground floor of the hotel, as told to me by a local resident.

While everyone is concerned what the delay in studying the road will mean for the stores and businesses on King St., it turns out the road has become quite the tourist attraction.

At the Mayor’s Breakfast this morning, Mike Murrary, CAO, mentioned that the Region is working on letting people take a piece of the road if they wish. Tom Galloway presented this idea to me yesterday.

In a previous update memo, Kim Moser said:

The Region will be offering residents a chance to secure their own piece of the corduroy road after it’s been removed
 100, two-foot sections of the corduroy road will be available to the public for free on a first-come, first-service basis, while supplies last in May
 Details on this giveaway will be provided by the Region once the corduroy road has been removed from the area by GrandLinq
 The remainder of the corduroy road and the surrounding soil will be disposed of according to environmental standards and regulations

Here is some information from staff about the process so far.

From Lucille Bish, Director of Cultural Services concerning preserving the road.

The process to preserve wet wood artifacts from archaeological sites is to keep them wet in the field and then in the lab.  Water is slowly removed and replaced with PEG – polyethylene glycol – a process which can take several years.  This cannot be done easily if the wood has been allowed to dry out in the field or the lab.

In the case of the corduroy road section found under King Street, it has been uncovered and fully documented under the direction of an archaeologist.  However, there was no intent to keep it wet and covered, so the cell structure of the wood will have already begun to collapse.  We don’t know how long the wood will stay intact, but any display or use would be short term at best. Without some form of preservation, now that the wood has been exposed to the elements, it will become dust in a matter of a couple years. The resources to preserve the wood are likely limited to federal conservation labs in Ottawa.

The City of Waterloo Museum is planning to take a section, with the knowledge and support of the Region of Waterloo Museum.  There is no need to keep more than one section of the road in the community.  As the actual preservation of the wood is beyond the physical and financial resources of either museum, it would be a temporary exhibit.

Neither can the road be left intact and re-covered with soil, as there are adjacent underground services which must be replaced.

The real value of the find has already been accomplished.  The formal documentation has included photographs, detailed drawings and construction notes, and 3D imaging.  The City of Waterloo Museum plans a temporary exhibit of images at the construction site.  Many people have been attracted to Uptown Waterloo to take a look, which has been good for business.

Here is even more detail about the corduroy road, for those obsessed (like me).

Background:
· On March 11, GrandLinq crews performing light rail transit (LRT) construction at the King/Willis Way intersection, discovered a change in conditions and the presence of wood
o In keeping with requirements of both the Project Agreement and the Ontario Heritage Act, work was immediately stopped and GrandLinq’s Environmental Department was informed
· The investigation, which is nearing completion, has been led by an independent licensed archaeologist, with support from historical experts at both the Region and the City of Waterloo
· On March 18, the lead archaeologist confirmed that the finding was a corduroy road
· Following the confirmation, the lead archaeologist and his team were required to:
o Determine the extent of the corduroy road on King, between William and Erb
o Carefully and completely expose the intact sections of the corduroy road in order to document the findings (i.e. map and photograph the corduroy road)
o Submit a report, for review and approval, to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport (Ministry)

Current Situation:
· Today (April 19), the lead archaeologist and his team are expected to complete their documentation of the corduroy road on King, between William and Erb. They will also prepare the report for the Ministry
· Understanding the concerns a prolonged delay will have on ION LRT construction and businesses in UpTown Waterloo, the lead archaeologist has worked closely with the Ministry throughout the investigation and will remove the corduroy road once the documentation process is complete and authorization from the Ministry has been granted. This work will require two steps:
o Step 1: Removal of unsuitable soil that surrounded the corduroy road. Some of the soil in this area cannot be reused due to poor conditions
o Step 2: The corduroy road (i.e. the logs) will be removed
· Once the unsuitable soil and corduroy road materials have been removed, LRT construction in this area will resume

Next Steps:
· At this point, it’s too early to know what impact the corduroy road delay will have on the ION construction schedule for UpTown Waterloo
· Once LRT construction resumes, GrandLinq and the Region will need some time to assess the situation and determine what (if any) schedule time can be gained through other construction methods (i.e. double-shifting and/or a noise by-law exemption, etc.)
· The Region and GrandLinq understand the importance of the Christmas shopping season for UpTown Waterloo businesses. We expect to have an update on the ION construction schedule and the impacts of the corduroy road delay by the end of June
· It’s important to note that during the archaeological investigation of the corduroy road, GrandLinq crews were re-assigned to accelerate the completion of LRT work in other areas of UpTown Waterloo. This will help with the overall LRT construction schedule for UpTown Waterloo. For example, on Allen, and in the Caroline/Allen intersection:
o The Caroline/Allen intersection did not open, as previously planned, on March 24. Instead, the intersection remains closed until mid-June
o When the intersection re-opens, all required work in the intersection will be complete, including installation of the track and related infrastructure
· On-going work in UpTown also continues, as scheduled, including:
o King/Union – construction at this intersection is progressing well and it is expected to re-open May 15 prior to the Caroline/Erb intersection closing
o King/William – construction at this intersection began March 29 and it is expected to re-open May 15. The Caroline/Erb intersection will not close until King/William re-opens

What will happen to the corduroy road?
· As required by the Ontario Heritage Act, the corduroy road has been carefully and completely exposed and documented. A report on the findings, as required, will be submitted to the Ministry for review and approval
o The final report will be shared with both the Waterloo Region Museum and the City of Waterloo’s Museum
· The City of Waterloo’s Museum has requested, and will receive, a piece of the corduroy road for its archives
· The Region has extensive drone footage of the corduroy road
· The City of Waterloo has documented the corduroy road through 3D-imaging. This information will be shared with the Region
· The Region and the City of Waterloo will be creating several banners to document the history of the corduroy road and what was found in UpTown Waterloo
o These banners, once completed, will be displayed along the construction fencing in UpTown Waterloo
· The Region will be offering residents a chance to secure their own piece of the corduroy road after it’s been removed
o 100, two-foot sections of the corduroy road will be available to the public for free on a first-come, first-service basis, while supplies last in May
o Details on this giveaway will be provided by the Region once the corduroy road has been removed from the area by GrandLinq
· The remainder of the corduroy road and the surrounding soil will be disposed of according to environmental standards and regulations

Will GrandLinq be able to complete their work in time for the 2016 Holiday shopping season?
· At this point, it’s too early to know what impact the corduroy road delay will have on the ION construction schedule for UpTown Waterloo
· Once LRT construction resumes, GrandLinq and the Region will need some time to assess the situation and determine what (if any) schedule time can be gained through other construction methods (i.e. double-shifting and/or a noise by-law exemption, etc.)
· The Region and GrandLinq understand the importance of the Christmas shopping season for UpTown Waterloo businesses. We expect to have an update on the ION construction schedule and the impacts of the corduroy road delay by the end of June

What is a Corduroy road?
· A corduroy road (or log road) is a type of road made by placing logs perpendicular to the direction of the road over a low or swampy area
o In some cases, these road sections were sand or earth covered. The result is an improvement over impassable mud/dirt roads
· Corduroy roads are the first instances of roads in Ontario. The corduroy road in UpTown Waterloo predates the 1800’s

Why is it important to document information about historical finds?
· Archaeological features, like the corduroy road in UpTown Waterloo, tell us about our past
o This feature tells us about the earliest Euro-Canadian settlers in the area (pre-dating 1800) and provides an example of the first roads travelled in Ontario
· From discoveries like this one, that connect our present to the past, we can learn about the evolution of Waterloo Region
· It is important – and regulated – that historical specimens discovered during construction be treated in accordance with the steps outlined in both the Project Agreement and the Ontario Heritage Act

What are the costs of the corduroy road?
· It’s too soon to speculate on what the costs will be. However, it is expected that any costs associated with the corduroy road will be managed within the contingencies that are being carried for Stage 1 ION LRT
· As we have done to date, any impacts to the schedule or costs for ION will be included in the staff update to Regional Council. The next update will be later this fall/winter

And finally, an interesting article in the Waterloo Chronicle about a bridge, probably removed when Laurel Creek was buried, across the original street in Uptown.

http://www.waterloochronicle.ca/news-story/6411654-historical-discovery/

Pictures of Uptown Waterloo and Corduroy Road, on April 22nd, 2016, Earth Day

 

 

 

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