Neighbors protest planned tree removal, wildlife destruction by railway along Michael G Rippe Pkwy

A natural barrier to a major road is being cut down, and people living there are protesting. They want to ensure tree preservation and safety of wildlife.

Seminole Gulf Railway is removing almost 3 miles of trees along Michael G Rippe Parkway from Six Mile Cypress Parkway to Alico Road in Lee County.

Community members went out in full force Friday to protest the removal of the trees and the danger it poses to wildlife.

“Here, you can hear this truck going by,” Bill Smoler said.

Those living along the tree line say they were given no warning, and now, they want to know why. They don’t like the railway’s reason, saying the trees are an invasive species and a fire hazard. Both issues, Bill Smoler points out, can be remedied without wiping out every tree.

“We’ve been told it’s because they have a right to do it,” Bill said. “But because you have a right to do something doesn’t make it right to do that thing.”

So a small group of neighbors waved signs and shouted out slogans, hoping a protest gets some traction. They say the lack of a noise barrier and a hit to property value is bad enough, and they are also concerned about countless species of wildlife who call those trees home.

“The animals live in here,” Cinde Smoler said. “We watch them every day in these trees. We watch them all on the ground, animals. And these people have came in with the shredder and destroy their homes. Nobody seems to care.”

“Birds from here include herons, mockingbirds, blue jays, doves, hawks, ravens, woodpeckers, and their home is absolutely being devastated,” Bill said.

Neighbors want to have direct conversations about the current decisions for the railway, but so far, they say Seminole Gulf railway doesn’t want to talk.

The railway told us it was not interested in providing a response when we reached out.

Reporter:Taylor Wirtz
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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