To the editor:
Last year, I read about the plight of Lark Campisano and her neighbors. Many of the homeowners of North Fort Myers living adjacent/near the Prairie Pines Preserve are concerned about a highway extension road that may be built through the edge of the preserve. I researched the issue further and spoke with people in the area.
Prairie Pines Preserve is located off highway 41, 18400 North Tamiami Trail, in Lee County Florida in North Fort Myers. The Preserve consists of 2654.06 acres of land.
The Del Prado Extension Project, planned by the Lee County M.P.O. and our County Commissioners, proposes to build a 4-6 lane highway extension along/within the entire East and South borders of the Preserve, cutting adjacent residents off from the Preserve, and destroying part of the Preserve. The road would negatively impact wildlife within/utilizing the preserve and restrict resident's access, affecting quality of life.
The project will endanger/cause additional stress to protected wildlife species that use the Preserve, such as gopher frogs, American alligators, gopher tortoises, eastern indigo snakes, wood storks, Florida sandhill cranes, bald eagles, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and Sherman's fox squirrels. Other recently seen species include swallows, armadillos, and swallow-tailed kites.The road itself will cost taxpayers millions.
Right now, from their back yards, residents have a beautiful view of the preserve, with its trees and wildlife. Once the extension is built, they will only see a noisy 4-6 lane highway. Many of these residents own several acres and horses. Some moved to the area years ago because they appreciate the rural beauty and clean air of their neighborhood. Their children enjoy a community where they can ride horses through the preserve, hike and enjoy watching nature.
I am not against building roads, but I do feel that it is unfair to impose a road project on a community where residents live because they value the rural tranquility.
You can liken their plight to if you lived on a beach and someone came along and put a highway extension between your backyard and the ocean.
People living in North Fort Myers, off Chiquita in Cape Coral and in Buckingham seem to have the same thing in common, roadway widening projects that are being pushed on residential areas. As a citizen of Cape Coral, I feel it is important to support our neighbors. I ask my fellow citizens to please speak up with them in support of their efforts. Access and stewardship of the preserve by residents should be encouraged.
In addition, Lee County is behind in preserving green space compared with other areas of Florida. "A 1994 land use study found that only 10 percent of Lee County was set aside for conservation. In comparison, nearly 28% of the State of Florida is owned and managed as conservation lands and other south Florida counties have from 40% to 85% set aside for conservation." This is why it is critical to protect these lands, both for species protection, for clean groundwater and air, to protect the quality of life for residents, and to ensure that Southwest Florida remains a viable eco tourism destination. Tourists will go elsewhere if we do not protect these areas. No one comes to Florida so they can see more asphalt.
We can ask our County Commissioners/M.P.O. representatives to vote no to the road project or look at less damaging alternatives. The M.P.O. board could ease our minds by giving staff direction to remove the project from the Transportation Needs Network and Financially Feasible Network and voting to keep the project out of the Long Range Transportation Plan, or discuss alternatives. I urge M.P.O. representatives who may read this to please listen and discuss these concerns.
You can make a difference by contacting the Board of Commissioners and other M.P.O. representatives. For more information; visit SAVE Prairie Pines Preserve on Facebook, where residents have joined together to discuss their concerns.