Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

DOT Urged to Beautify Land Cleared for I-295; Council Members Join Groups in Calling for Landscaping, New Trees

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

DOT Urged to Beautify Land Cleared for I-295; Council Members Join Groups in Calling for Landscaping, New Trees

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein

Standing on a tract where trees were clear-cut between a Mandarin residential neighborhood and Interstate 295, City Council members Matt Schellenberg and Bill Bishop described how they think it should look after the state completes the highway widening.

Yes, the state Department of Transportation would build a drainage pond on the site, which is why the state cleared it in the first place.

But Schellenberg and Bishop said Friday it shouldn't just be a hole in the ground that's an accessory to building four new toll lanes on I-295.

"Make a park out of it," Bishop said. "It doesn't have to be a bahia-sodded, engineer-circled lake behind a chain-link fence. If you're going to spend so much money to dig a hole, make it look good."

"Make it a beautiful place where the people of Mandarin can walk down here and enjoy the retention pond," Schellenberg said.

Schellenberg and Bishop joined four beautification organizations Friday to call on the state Department of Transportation to make a commitment for extensive landscaping and tree replanting. Dozens of acres were cleared for widening I-295 to 10 lanes from its current six lanes.

"We want our trees back," said Susie Scott, president of the Mandarin Community Club. "We want our quality of life back."

Representatives of Scenic Jacksonville, Greenscape of Jacksonville, and City Beautiful Jax also criticized the large-scale clearing of trees.

Transportation department officials said they are interested in meeting with city officials and the community organizations.

"We do listen and we do value the input from the community," said Ron Tittle, spokesman for the department's Jacksonville office.

He said the state had a meeting before construction started that showed the plans for the highway widening, which will install toll lanes in that segment of I-295. About 100 people attended. He said it's harder to make changes in plans after construction starts, but the department will "look at the concerns of the public and see what can be done as we move forward with the project. …

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