4032x1908 Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman beside banner; Mike Roth of OSFR speaking, Banner, in No Roads to Ruin at Florida State Capitol, by John S. Quarterman, for WWALS.net, 5 December 2019

Mike Roth, the president of Our Santa Fe River, speaks Thursday as the No Roads to Ruin Coalition met in Tallahassee to oppose new proposed toll roads in the state.

TALLAHASSEE — A coalition of 55 organizations and businesses, the No Roads to Ruin Coalition announced Friday a statewide campaign devoted to stopping Senate President Bill Galvano’s plan for 300-plus miles of new toll roads.

Within sight of Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, who in May signed the bill approving the roads, a crowd of more than 40 coalition members and supporters, many holding up bright green “NO BUILD” placards, joined speakers from the Florida Springs Council, League of Women Voters of Florida, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, Florida Conservation Voters, Our Santa Fe River and 100 Thousand Poets for Change in denouncing both the plan and the decision-makers responsible for it Thursday.

The gathering was flanked by a large poster including more than 50 organizations that belong to the growing coalition.

“This is just the beginning, Ryan Smart, Executive Director of the Florida Springs Council, said. “We are building a large, diverse coalition that will take a very hard line against these ‘roads to ruin’ until they are stopped in their tracks. The task force process is nothing more than a sham. The Florida Legislature may think that highway interchanges, fast food, and sprawl equals progress but the communities in the path of these roads have different values and deserved to be heard and served.”

Mark Ferrulo, the executive director of Progress Florida, said the state government has bigger needs to address than additional roadways, including health care and education.

Sierra Club representative Herman Andres Younger and Anne Harvey, the staff attorney for the Save the Manatee Club, both said the plan would lead to environmental damage.

“Not since the Cross Florida Barge Canal has the state seen such a poorly conceived development project,” Harvey said. “Although the Canal was de-authorized prior to completion, its detrimental impacts persist. The M-CORES project will have adverse consequences on a similar scale, destroying priceless natural resources forever.”

Added Phil Kushlan, president of the Friends of the Everglades: “On most road projects we can debate the trade-offs between benefits and dooming the affected environment to eventual development, but when a road is so poorly planned that the public can’t even imagine any benefits to consider, it’s clearly time to call it quits.”

Environmental concerns were also addressed by representatives of the Apalachee Audubon Society, Bear Warriors United and the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Putting a toll road through our environmentally sensitive springsheds will encourage further development that can only serve to inhibit aquifer recharge and promote wetland destruction,”

said Mike Roth, president of Our Santa Fe River.

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman added: “We need less fertilizer leaching into our springs and rivers and more water quality monitoring, not more roads gouging through our watersheds.”

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