ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- When Sarah Owen Gledhill of the Florida Wildlife Federation heard there may be a road running through 12 Mile Swamp, she was concerned.
"I'm concerned because it could go through publicly owned conservation lands," she said.
12 Mile Swamp is more than 21,000 acres of swamp and forest that the state and the St. Johns River Water Management District bought in 2001 for with $21 million worth of tax payer money.
The goal was to protect wildlife and to help protect the communities sprouting up around the conservation area.
"That provides flood control for the community that live down stream and it also provides a cleanings mechanism for the St. Johns River and the Matanzas River," Owen Gledhill explained.
A map from the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization – or TPO-- shows a proposed 4-lane road running through portions of the 12 Mile Swamp. The road would essentially connect US 1 to I-95.
TPO says a road connecting the North Florida Regional Airport in St. Augustine to I-95 was on the list of needs it received from St. Johns County officials.
However, when St. Johns County Commissioners saw the map for the first time this week, they voted to ask the transportation planners to not put a road through the conservation land.
"It simply makes no sense. I'm sure there are corridors that would make more sense environmentally," Wuellner said.The airport's executive director Ed Wuellner told First Coast News the airport would indeed like a direct connecting road to the interstate – especially now that is has a new commercial airline – but he does not support a road through conservation land.
As for Owen Gledhill, she's pleased county commissioners voted to nix the idea. However, she said the fight to preserve conservation land never ends.
"I think that's why there was an aggressive effort to get the road off the map now, because in 5 years, they'll go through this exercise again," she said.
TPO said the proposed map showing the suggested road was not a definite plan, and it would need to go through many steps of approval before becoming a reality.