Collier County says no to 76-mile Naples-to-Miami bike path

Posted at 5:34 PM, Feb 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-10 20:24:36-05

Dozens of environmentalists, including members of the Miccosukee Tribe, showed up in force at a Collier County meeting Friday to voice their opposition to a proposed bike path through the Everglades. The county's Metropolitan Planning Organization met Friday to decide whether to go forward with plans for the 76-mile-long "River of Grass Greenway" between Naples and Miami.

"This goes right through our area that is sacred to us," said Betty Osceola of the Miccosukee Tribe. "We understand that we don't need to destroy nature in order to enjoy nature."

Tribal attorney Jeanine Bennett said the tribe was left out of discussions about the bike path.

"Nobody reached out to us on a governmental level to be able to hear the concerns of the tribe," Bennett said.

But supporters of the greenway told MPO board members that cyclists will use whatever roadway they can between Naples and Miami, and that the shoulder on Tamiami Trail isn't safe for riding.

"I really would encourage money to be spent on improving the safety for eco-friendly transportation, so that the Miccosukee Police don't have to scrape up the bodies of the cyclists," said Maureen Bonness of the Naples Pathways Coalition.

But it was the opposition that made a greater impact on the MPO board. A motion to rescind county support for the bike path passed 6-0.

"We're elated today that we were able to stop this project," Osceola said.

A representative from the Florida Department of Transportation said that the agency would try to keep about $1.6 million earmarked for the bike path in Collier County, to be used for other projects.