Environmental groups fear new Pasco evacuation road could destroy Starkey Wilderness

Posted at 5:15 AM, Jun 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 07:02:20-04

A major controversy stirring in Pasco County over a road project 20-years in the making.

County administrators say it's about progress and safety. However, environmental groups fear what it could do to the Starkey Wilderness.

"I don't think it's a good idea for a variety of reasons, number one it's costly," said Pasco County resident Dale Thien.

Thien, part of a growing chorus of Pasco residents fighting the Ridge Road Extension.

"It seems that they're trying to push it through now," Thien told ABC Action News.

Groups like the Suncoast Sierra Club worry about the impact to the Starkey Wilderness.

"We have 30 acres of wetlands that are threatened by this project that would be completely destroyed," said Jessica Lewis with Suncoast Sierra Club.

County administrator, Dan Biles told ABC Action News the road is needed as hurricane evacuation route.

"Right now ridge road ends at Moon Lake. Phase one would take it to the Suncoast Highway. We very restricted as far as evacuation routes. So how do you put a cost on the lives that are at risk because we don't have these additional four lanes," said Biles.

The debate, going back 20-years, costing taxpayers nearly 20 million.

"This is a great place... why on earth would we want to now cut it in half," said Thien.

Local environmental groups now fearing they could be in a losing fight, but one they don't plan to concede yet.

To find out more about the Ridge Road project and the groups fighting to protect the Preserve, click here.