I remember my historian mother telling me that Paynes Prairie was once a giant lake and that in the mid-1800s, before a sinkhole drained the lake, famed pioneer and pineapple farmer, Capt. Thomas E. Richards sailed from the St Johns River, in Jacksonville, over the lake, only to wind up at the Indian River Lagoon in Eden, near today’s Jensen.
Well this past Friday, on my way to Gainesville for the “Future of Florida Summit” (http://www.futureoffloridasummit.com) Paynes Prairie looked like it had become a lake once again. Although it is not a truly a lake any longer, it must be flooded as the prairie’s water levels go up and down.
As my grandparents lived in Gainesville and I graduated from UF, I have driven across the prairie many times, but seeing it from the air “all wet looking” really took me aback. Like a miniature Tamiami Trail, one could see Highway 441 going right through this “lake!”
Apparently in 2000, eco-underpasses were installed as it has been widely documented that thousands of animals, mostly reptiles, have been killed on this road. And yet, many animals, reptiles and other, continue to be killed.
I know it would be expensive, but since transportation is perhaps one of the most highly funded of all state departments, in the billions and billions of dollars, and since Florida’s wildlife and natural lands rank as a portion of the state’s number one economic driver, tourism… could not, over time, Hwy. 441 become more like the Tamiami Trail is becoming, more bridged than flat…
It just doesn’t make sense to have a lake, or an Everglades, with a road through it.
Paynes Prairie website: web site: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Paynes-Prairie
Good historical article on Paynes Prairie: Chicago Tribune1991:http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-12-29/travel/9104260758_1_wild-horses-bison-spanish-florida
2017-18, Funding for FDOT, state of Florida: https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2017/02/01/see-which-local-highway-port-programs-just-got.html
Abstract, animal mortality along 441 in Paynes Prairie and eco-underpass: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24321153