Sometimes I feel like I’m the queen of the median landscaping effort, so we have good news coming our way on this subject…lots of good news. First, the county applied for a Florida Highway Beautification Council Grant quite a while back to landscape another portion of Collier Boulevard/951 between Mainsail Drive and Fiddler’s Creek. It seemed like there were more hurdles to jump than ever, but our staff is persistent, and so am I. We finally got the news that the request has been approved and we can move forward with design, bid and construction. It will probably take a few more months – government doesn’t really do anything in a hurry – but it should be completed by the time our residents get back for next season, as long as they come towards the end of the year. More on landscaping in a couple more paragraphs, but while on the subject of Collier Boulevard, I asked the Secretary of FDOT, Billy Hattaway, to take a ride with me over what I call the washboard of 951, which he did. He was terribly surprised, and remarked that he knew of NO roads in the State of Florida that had that problem and surmised that there must be something going on below the surface that couldn’t be fixed by just resurfacing the pavement. He will have his crews looking into it shortly, but he thinks maybe erosion might be going on. As I find out, I’ll keep you informed. For those who don’t know what area I’m talking about, it is located between Fiddler’s Creek and Mainsail Drive on Collier Boulevard. No matter which way you go, north or south on Collier Boulevard, to or from Marco Island, the washboard is there. I’ll keep you informed as I learn more.
*Another welcomed relief should be on the way for those folks living on U.S. 41 E, east of 951/Collier Boulevard. There are many homes and developments on this newly widened road from two lanes to six lanes, but there were no street lights installed with the expansion of the road. When I took Secretary Hattaway on “our ride,” I told him the response I had received from FDOT was that they would not look into the project for at least 18 months, but when he saw all the people and developments already there he stated that he doesn’t believe that the project can wait that long, and he will get back to me with a time line. I pointed out that it is so dangerous right now, and hoped that they would be able to get the job done sooner rather than later. Hopefully we hear back from them soon.
*The news wasn’t as good for the folks in Reflection Lakes who are having a real struggle with all the noise emanating from the newly widened road, but do not have a noise wall to buffer it. He said when they took the study six years ago, Reflection Lakes was in its infancy and the developer was advised of the future road widening and was ordered to include that information to those who bought into the development as he sold the units. Secretary Hattaway said the residents would have to sue the developer to put in a noise wall. I’m afraid I hear someone whistling Dixie.
*Now, back to the countywide landscaping effort. Years ago, about 2003 or so, we asked our residents if they wanted landscaping, they said yes, so we enacted a Municipal Special Taxing Unit (MSTU) to do the landscaping, picked out a plan and design, which included side trees and grass, and began the effort to make us the most beautiful county in the State of Florida! Our landscaped medians became our signature! We were the envy of other counties, who then started to emulate our effort. We enjoyed the beauty it created, plus it hid many things we’d prefer to stay in the background. I’ve also noted that it prevented a few head-on collisions as we see people hit trees or get stuck in the medians rather that hit someone head on. Well then, the Great Recession came to be and the MSTU money needed to be folded into the budget to keep county government going, and once the recession ebbed away, we needed to cover the backlog of infrastructure that needed to be replaced or repaired. We are about at the end of the process, and we can now use those MSTU dollars for their original intended use – Median Landscaping. We will be starting to catch up, oldest jobs first and moving forward. We will try to do four areas each year for four years until we catch up. Immokalee Road residents will be relieved to hear that they will be one of the roads that will start to get their landscaping, as will Santa Barbara Boulevard, and Collier Boulevard between U.S. 41 E and Davis Boulevard. Each year we will continue down the roads until they are finished, taking the oldest work promised to the newest, which might still be in progress now. I will get you a more complete list of areas and times by the next writing of this column.
*Have a wonderful day and remember: If you take care of the little stuff, the bigger stuff will take care of itself, as said by Reinhold Schmieding, founder and owner of Arthrex.