Nonprofit Drops Support for Bike Path through the Everglades

Greenway opponents earlier this year.
Greenway opponents earlier this year.
Photo courtesy of Deirdra Funcheon

For once, defenders of the Everglades are cheering. Days are possibly numbered, they say, for a controversial and big-dollar project  — the River of Grass Greenway, a proposed bicycle path that would link Naples to Miami. A Naples nonprofit that had been instrumental in pushing the plan today decided to drop its support. 

The plan, dubbed ROGG, would lay 75 miles of hard-surface path through state and federal parkland parallel to Tamiami Trail. The expected costs for the project have risen over time, with the latest price tag coming close to $150 million, according to an estimate conducted this summer. 

But support has not been unanimous for the project. As we reported in March, a coalition of Gladesmen and Native Americans set up a vocal opposition to the project. Their gripe: The project could have a serious environmental impact on a portion of the Everglades that's already been whipped and beaten by bad planning and development. Also, why spend so much money — government money — on a project that might not get a lot of use? The Naples Daily News echoed a lot of these concerns in an editorial this week. 

Apparently, some onetime supporters of the path have been listening to the critics. The Naples Pathway Coalition had previously endorsed ROGG. The group's board voted to end their participation with the project, a decision made public today. "The new board actually decided that considering the cost and the resources that we have in our organization, the River of Grass Greenway was no longer fulfilling our mission," Beth Brainard, the coalition's executive director, told New Times. 

"Many of the board members felt this money, if it was going to be spent, would be better for making communities safer for bicyclists and walkers," he added. "There were also concerns about the environment and concerns that this would be a vast amount of money to spend for a minimal number of people." 

However, the project is not completely off the table. Many stakeholders, including Miami-Dade county and the National Park Service, have also invested money in planning and feasability studies. Brainard added that some members of her group who still hope that ROGG will be built are forming their own nonprofit to pursue it.

New Times reached out to opponents of the project. We'll update with their reaction. 

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