Saved it, didn't pave it


Published: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 12:36 a.m.
Soon, Gainesville will welcome a new feature in our Hogtown Creek Greenway: a tree-surrounded boardwalk from which our natural world can be viewed by its human species.
On March 17, 1998, after more than five years of citizens fighting to "Save It, Don't Pave It," the heroic efforts of individuals, neighborhoods, experts and environmental groups were vindicated in a landslide referendum vote against paving a 10-foot-wide road through the fragile creek and wetland areas of Hogtown Creek.
Eight subsequent years of citizen monitoring of the city of Gainesville have helped to preserve this environmental success. The first segment of the Greenway (Phase 1A) was completed in 2000, and the forthcoming Phase 1B is expected to be completed by March.
The victory over the bulldozers has protected the Greenway from the destruction of a 16-foot swathe of trees and understory that was to accommodate a three-foot shoulder on each side of the proposed 10-foot-wide road. Instead, the new boardwalk is constructed of non-toxic wood and the minimal removal of understory and trees was individually effected by hand.
Thus, a significant amount of the Greenway's woodland and wetland habitat for more than 400 species of birds, reptiles and mammals has been preserved in these first segments of the 7.1-mile trail. (Some of these species are on the federal or state endangered or threatened lists.) But there are additional values in the boardwalk approach in the Greenway:
  • Increased soil erosion and flooding are avoided.
  • No increase in pollution.
  • Ecosystems are not threatened.
  • The tree canopy is protected. (One acre of trees removes 26,000 pounds of particulates and pollutants each year.) Stepping along the boardwalk through the green tunnel of trees, one is impressed to see how carefully the Greenway has been traversed. The quietude in these woods benefits both its denizens and its visitors. What a great privilege to connect with this enormous green web of life which we are part of- not apart from.
    The good citizens of Gainesville and Alachua County will continue to be vigilant in the protection of our Greenway to ensure that its irreplaceable natural resources receive the careful treatment thus far tendered to it. This has been accomplished by dedicated citizens working with Manager of Nature Operations Ann Bigelow, whose exacting environmental standards have informed the project. Nature Operations is a branch of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, headed by Director David Flaherty and Assistant Director Steve Phillips.
    Our Hogtown Creek experience illustrates that even in these times of galloping development, people can succeed in protecting some of the endangered resources of our community and our planet for the benefit of all species, including ours.
    Francine Robinson is co-founder of Greenspace Preservation Association. She lives in Gainesville.
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