In southern Pasco County, the South Branch River used to pass wholly unnoticed through a wilderness marked by trees and flat fields and devoid of nearly all human life.
That is, until men armed with bulldozers, sledgehammers and permits came in and began tearing up the land to build the 42-mile Suncoast Parkway. The road, complete with a “nature” walk, was lauded as the fastest way to get from one side of the Tampa Bay area to the other.
But don’t be fooled. It is no accident that the Suncoast Parkway was built quite far from the majority of existing development east and west of it.
Way back in 1986, the Sawgrass Expressway opened in Broward County. The road certainly wasn’t built to make things easier on commuters; it trudged along in Broward and then dropped off the map into the westernmost part of the county.
Within months of the completion, three major developers swallowed up hundreds of acres, planned nearly 30,000 new homes and a six-million-square-foot industrial and office park. Today, the area is just another part of the overbearing sprawl of south Florida.
Return to present-day central Florida. The Suncoast Parkway has been in existence for nearly three years, and already the offers of development are rolling in.
On either side of South Branch River, the once lazy spring, the bulldozers are already moving in. The behemoth Kearney Development, known for its huge developments, has cleared an area the size of a small town for thousands of new homes. Across the Parkway, Hogan Development is preparing to build a large residential and commercial zone, annoyingly named “North Pointe.”
What exactly the area is a “pointe” of is debatable, but I would venture to call the area the apex of unwanted and unneeded development. And it gets worse. Former cow ranchers turned big shot developers Nick and Peter Geraci already have visions of a new one-million-square-foot shopping mall with well over 100 stores three miles east of the Parkway.
That’s just what we need, another shopping mall. Heck, how could the Tampa Bay area possibly survive without one more place to buy overpriced clothing?
What’s worse, the site is just miles away from the proposed site of another million-square-foot mall. But, in a state that brings in nearly a thousand new residents a day, all they see are dollar signs. With development we all win, right? Not quite.
The losers are precious, but, alas, expendable in the eyes of most: the wildlife that will inevitably be forced out when the wilderness they called home is plowed and paved over. And the South Branch River will most definitely lose, destined for dredging because it’s unsightly to people shelling out $100,000 per house.
I predict the area will be filled in and turned into a dog playground. I can’t wait!
Joe Roma is a junior majoring in political science.