Windsor City Hall will need a few weeks to gather information about the prospect of closing roads near the Ojibway Prairie Complex to reduce the amount of roadkill.

Council was considering the temporary closure of stretches of both Matchette Road and Malden Road during peak reptilian migration season, which runs from Sept. 1 until Oct. 27.

According to the Ojibway Nature Centre, nearly 1,243 dead snakes have been found between 2015 and 2018 on are roadways and 72 per cent of those were found on Matchette and Malden.

But council chose to defer the decision until the next regular meeting, instead looking for the impacts of just closing a section of Malden Road between Armanda Street and Todd Lane. Coun. Chris Holt – who put the motion forward – says the roads would still be open to local traffic.

“I think we understand closing both Matchette and Malden is just, nobody is going for it, and it’s dead in the water. So let’s pull back a bit, let’s work together, and let’s ask for one,” coun. Holt said after the meeting.

“I feel that this council needs to do something. We’ve got an ecological gem here, and it’s just a matter of protecting it,” says Holt. “We will close main arteries for three months at a time and basically all we’re asking for is to consider closing a section of Malden to traffic for six weeks. So I don’t think it’s an unreasonable ask.”

But coun. Fred Francis says closing only one road isn’t likely to make a difference.

“Those vehicles have to go down somewhere so if you close down Malden, odds are you’re going to have more people going down Matchette which puts species at risk at even greater harm,” Francis says, noting if the city closed Malden Road – even temporarily – it would also have a major effect on existing home and business owners.

“Unless council is going to be prepared to expropriate, unless council’s going to be prepared to potentially pay out the businesses and lost business,” Ward coun. Fred Francis warns.

Adding another wrinkle into the fray, The Coco Group sent a letter to the city solicitor Monday, restating their objection to any road closures. Coco went through an extensive application and won an OMB hearing for the right to develop lands along the Matchette Road and Sprucewood corridor, right next to Ojibway Park.

“Coco has followed all the rules in accordance with council and city administration and we have always acted in good faith, conducted all the reports requested of us necessary to finalize our application – including receiving an Endangered Species Act Permit from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, which takes into account road improvements,” states the letter, penned by Anthony Rossi, the director of land development and government relations for Coco Group.

“We wish to continue working in good faith with city council. However, and understandably so, any decision that negatively impacts our sites will result in the matter being resolved with our legal counsel’s involvement,” Rossi writes.

Nancy Pancheshan of the group “Friends of Save Ojibway” believes new information has surfaced since the OMB hearing regarding the species at risk within the Ojibway Prairie Reserve and the situation is more dire today than it was at the time of the OMB hearings.

“They’re threatening a lawsuit to the city and it’s kind of poppycock that a company can think that they can bully and prevent the protection of endangered species,” counters Pancheshan.

But Windsor’s mayor says closing Matchette could expose the city to lengthy and costly litigation.

“The whole goal is to try to get to a position where you protect the wildlife in Ojibway that we think is so important without putting the Corporation of the City of Windsor and their taxpayers at great risk,” Drew Dilkens says, adding it will also cause frustration for residents of both Windsor and LaSalle.

Pancheshan says closing the roads would be a minor inconvenience, considering taking no action could wipe out a number of endangered species.

"A two to three minute delay is better than extinction and it's kind of the difference between right and wrong -- and having a caring, vibrant community," Pancheshan says.