Environmental group raises concerns about impact of Southwest-Central Florida Connector

A new plan to build a new road connecting Polk and Collier counties hopes to ease congestion on I-75.

But, it’s facing pushback from some people who say the road could do more harm to the environment than good.

Both sides will be discussing the fate of what’s being referred to as the Southwest-Central Florida Connector Thursday night in Arcadia.

Polk Collier Connector (WINK News)

The biggest concern right now is more panther deaths.

“There’s nowhere else in the world that these panthers exist,” Sarah Hollenhorse said.

People opposed to the idea say the road will go right through endangered panther habitat and will increase the likelihood of the animals dying by car.

“If a panther is going to cross the road, it’s going to cross the road,” Hollenhorse said. “It could lead to the extinction of the Panther in the long run.”

At the meeting, environmental boards displaying information on the project fill the room and give a close up look of the region it would impact.

“I’m going to have this within a mile from my house,” Ellen Beers said.

Beers doesn’t want a new road ruining the quiet area she moved to even if it means easing traffic to keep up with Florida’s growth.

“I understand the need for that dollar from the vacationers,” Beers said. “But they come, and they go.”

But some people such as Bill Lawrence see an opportunity for development.

“Hardee County hasn’t grown in population in for many years,” Lawrence said. “In fact, we’re loosing people, and we feel with this corridor, with easier access, growth will occur.”

The toll road would connect Polk and Collier counties. The group behind the project calls wildlife conservation a priority along with safety as the corridors would serve as evacuation routes, getting you out safer before a hurricane.

The public will get a chance to give their input about the project Thursday night.


Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
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