Have you heard? Orange and Osceola County are considering to build a toll road right through Split Oak Forest
Local News segment from March 7th Orange County Comissioners public hearing
One of the proposed paths. Current plans favor through the Osceola portion of Split Oak. The largely untouched forest is being eyed closely by road developers as it is costs the least dollars to build.
What: Toll road being proposed to cut through Split Oak Forest Wildlife and Environmental Area (specifically through Osceola county portion)
Who: Central Florida Expressway authority will decide on the fate of the construction of the road through or around Split Oak
Where: Lake Nona High School Gymnasium, 12500 Narcoossee Rd, Orlando, FL 32832
When: October 5th 5:30-7:30pm
Additional Details: Inquire with us if you can help raise awareness about what's going on. Please send a quick email to Pete Dunkelburg firstname.lastname@example.org or Deborah Green at email@example.com or 407-637-2525 or Valerie Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to be help with public interest so we can provide further assistance or answer general questions. Concerned members from Orange Audubon, Sierra club, Tarflower FNPS, and other groups are involved in this grassroots initiative. Tarflower Chapter would like people of Orange County to show support for Split Oak Forest and need the need to preserve current green spaces in ever-increasing urban sprawl. Public hearing meetings are essential for all interested parties to understand the political aspect of this controversial construction.
Latest Update on the Osceola Parkway Extension:
No decision has been officially made that the road may or may not go through Split Oak Forest. Osceola County wants a new multilane road, and wants part of it to go right through Split Oak Forest, which is supposed to be a parkland. Some alternate routes have been considered, but Osceola prefers the Split Oak route. This has been tentatively planned for years, and the planning continues, unsettled due to objections from Friends of Spit Oak Forest. Evidently the project is being taken over by the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) – Concept, Feasibility and Mobility Studies are analyzing locations for future toll roads. CFX is hosting an information session on Thursday (October 5th) at the Lake Nona High School gymnasium.
One of the four projects … the Osceola Parkway Extension … will have a major impact on the Lake Nona area. The 22-year old Split Oak Forest contains rare and endangered wildlife and is a unique environmental recreational experience for visitors and users. It is under threat of change by the project.
Display boards will show the areas to be affected and the environmental impacts known today. CFX consulting firm representatives will be available to explain and answer questions. A power-point presentation will play during the event with more information. Additional information can be found on the Expressway Authority website: https://www.cfxway.com/agency-information/plans-studies/project-studies/concept-studies/. Comment forms will be available at the event which you may complete there or take away to mail back later … but SOON! Comments may also be registered by E-mail to ConceptStudies@CFXway.com!
This is the only chance to see the boards and ask questions in person during 2017. Another information session is scheduled in January, 2018 … and a decision on the Studies is planned for April 2018 … just months away!
Please take the time to allow your voices to be heard and have your opinions matter.
Thursday, October 5 – Lake Nona High School Gymnasium – 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. – look for separate, dedicated parking areas away from the homecoming game / event.
Additionally, if you’d like, join the Friends of Split Oak Forest Facebook page
Also, get on THIS LIST to stay informed! Write to members of the CFX board if you're inclined!
Synopsis of March 7th meeting at Orange County Commissioners Chambers Office:
This meeting was well-attended by concerned citizens. This issue is now being taken up to the Central Florida Expressway- which will certainly be an uphill battle due to the Expressway's broad powers that supersede the county's laws in many instances. This page will be constantly updated- please check back frequently and share with your loved ones.
Coverage of Split Oak:
Article from Orlando Sentinel environmental journalist Kevin Spear on the Expressway Authority from the March 7th public hearing. Click here to read!
Read the February issue (page 2) of the Orange Audubon Society's OASis issue by Clicking Here!
Read enviornmental journalist Kevin Spear's article in the March 5th issue of the Orlando Sentinel by Clicking Here!
A couple of Facebook groups are also raising awareness and can be added to your social feed for easy updates:
Friends of Split Oak: This group engages citizens with hikes at the forest to help people appreciate nature's beauty. https://www.facebook.com/groups/friendsofsplitoak
No Build, Osceola Parkway Extension Project: This group is opposing the project and focused on alternatives to construction in order to spare Split Oak. https://www.facebook.com/groups/NoBuildOsceolaParkwayExtension/
Why save Split Oak from this construction:
Split Oak Forest protects 1,700 acres that were purchased using state funds made available through the Florida Communities Trust Program to provide opportunities for public recreation. The 9 miles of trail on the property are available for hiking, horseback riding and nature study, and are a component of the Great Florida Birding Trail. How would recreational values be affected by the presence of a high speed highway?
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, lead manager of the Wildlife Environmental Areas (WEA), has conducted prescribed fires on the property for over 20 years, producing exceptional habitat for many species, including gopher tortoises and fox squirrels. Proximity to high traffic roadways is a major obstacle to prescribed burning. How could the site continue to be managed properly if the road is constructed?
The property serves as a gopher tortoise mitigation bank and a large number of tortoises have been released there to mitigate for development impacts elsewhere. Will it be necessary for those tortoises to be relocated again? Mitigation on top of mitigation?
Orange County established the property as a mitigation bank to compensate for development impacts to other natural areas. How would the environmental impacts of road construction be mitigated for on lands already protected or restored to serve as mitigation? Mitigation on top of mitigation? Where and when will the mitigation merry-go-round end? The effectiveness of mitigation to offset or compensate for the environmental impacts of development is often questioned. Approval of such a proposal would suggest that mitigation is just a sham.