Controversial development in Collier County threatens panthers, walkers

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Florida Panther
FILE: The Florida panther via a file photo from the U.S. Geological Survey/ photo by Larry Richardson/FILE.

Some 50 people gathered together on Tuesday to express their opposition to a new 997-acre village set to be built between Golden Gate Estates and Immokalee. Commissioners are talking about it, but some worry the new River Grass Village could hurt the Florida panthers that live on the land and endanger locals while they walk.

April Olson, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida senior environmental planning specialist, wore green to a commission meeting on Tuesday for a reason. She hopes green comes to mean something to everyone in Collier County.

“We’re wearing green to support sustainable development,” Olson said. “We’re also opposing unsustainable development, which is what you would get with Rivergrass Village.”

Environmental groups, like the Conservancy, as well as nearby homeowners, told WINK News they oppose Rivergrass Village.

“You’re getting a village that would be bisected by a soon to be six-lane freight route,” Olson said, “carrying over 800 trucks per day.”

If approved, Collier Enterprises would build 2,500 homes with a village center on a parcel of land west of Ave Maria off Oilwell Rd. Matthew Schwartz, of the South Florida Wildlands Association, said the impact goes beyond the loss of habitat that panthers will have if the 2,500 units are built.

“How many more cars are coming into the area?” Schwartz said.

However, despite the sea of green, Schwartz fears nothing would change the minds of the commissioners.

“My sense is that they made up their mind,” Schwartz said. “I predict that they are going to approve this today.”

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