City Gate Development, LLC, as mitigation for its business park near the intersection of Collier Boulevard and I-75, constructed a wildlife crossing east of Immokalee on County Road 864 (Immokalee Road) at a cost of $1.3 million. The crossing is located in an area of high panther activity and is considered of strategic importance to Florida panther conservation.
“Environmental groups and City Gate Development are to be commended for working together to develop this unique project, the first of its kind in the state of Florida,” said District 5 Commissioner Jim Coletta. “The acceptance of the City Gate-funded crossing means the county will maintain the crossing at a modest cost each year because it is in the county right-of-way and an integral part of the roadway.”
As a result of modifications requested by the county to facilitate maintenance, a portion of the south slope of the crossing encroaches on private property. Barron Collier Investments, LTD., the owner of the property, agreed to convey the lands encroached upon to the county without compensation.
“The wildlife crossing is one element of a habitat conservation plan (HCP) for the City Gate development,” said Nancy Payton, southwest Florida field representative for the Florida Wildlife Federation. “For over four years, we worked closely with City Gate to develop a multi-species HCP under the provisions of the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The plan is a first for panthers and pioneers the use of mitigation funds to build a panther crossing. City Gate deserves credit for its efforts to reduce its impact on endangered species habitats including Florida panthers and red-cockaded woodpeckers.”
The project raised the road by about 7.5 feet to accommodate the wildlife crossing. The fencing on both sides will help direct panthers and other wildlife through the crossing.
“We are proud of the fact that this is Florida’s first-ever privately funded wildlife underpass and fencing,” said City Gate Development Attorney Roger Rice. “The project is the result of a creative public-private initiative working in partnership with conservation groups and we feel strongly that the habitat conservation plan is our way of doing the right thing for wildlife and the environment.”
For more information, contact Paula Springs at 252-8097.