August 16, 2022 

Contact:  Michael McGrath,, 386-341-4708



Who will keep it down? 

OCALA–No Roads to Ruin Coalition leaders gathered today to have the last word on the Florida Department of Transportation’s announcement of a “pause” for the Northern Turnpike Extension project before the upcoming primary and general elections.  “No Build” community activists from Citrus, Levy, Marion, and Sumter counties minced no words when (1) sharing their resolve to stop each and every attempt to ram a new toll road through rural Florida; and (2) responding to the legislators who voted for the politically-driven 2019 and 2021 bills that created the costly M-CORES and the Northern Turnpike Extension threats to their communities.

Kim Wheeler, one of the first activists in Levy County to start organizing her neighbors stated: “This is good news, but we must remember that this was legislated, not a normal FDOT project. Now during this pause we need to elect leaders who will listen to us and protect our rural way of life, our Nature Coast” 

Royal activist Kathy Towns said: “The state previously bisected our community putting I-75 through Royal and it is unacceptable for politicians to try and put highways through our African American community like they have time and time again. Royal would have been ground zero for the Northern Turnpike Extension: Each of the four proposed routes would have cut Royal in half, dividing the fabric of a loving and caring community that has been there for generations. There are no viable corridors for Historic Royal and we expect FDOT and state leadership to continue to hold their word and nix the Turnpike Extension.”

“I’m personally grateful for the amazing grassroots movement that has brought the NTE project to a pause. All the time and efforts of engaged citizens and communities are proof of our commitment to conservation and preservation. This pause has solidified my resolve, we will always stand to protect rural lifestyle and the Nature Coast. No toll roads, not here, not over there, not now, not ever.” added Levy County resident Laura Parks Catlow.

Kristin Parson of Dunnellon said: “FDOT’s announcement to “pause” the NTE was a huge victory for Florida’s treasured Nature Coast and all who are fighting to protect it. Tallahassee Legislators need to respect home rule and the values voters in the region are fighting to protect. We stand united to protect the American Dream: our homes, farms, ranches, wildlife, forests, and springs. But our work is not done: All four counties will continue to work together to prevent a new toll road here, there, or anywhere in Florida’s Nature Coast paradise. We will use our votes to elect leaders to save the future of our lands and natural resources.” 

Karen Esty of Inverness stated:  “Our legislators have attempted to push their agenda against the wishes of the taxpayers – The Coastal Connector, M-CORES and the Northern Turnpike Extension. The legislators should understand the three strike rule – You’re out.” 

Dr. Burt Eno, who has served as president of Rainbow River Conservation for 16 years, said he was horrified to find that two of the proposed turnpike extension routes ran right across the primary recharge basin of the Rainbow River. “Turnpike extensions to the Nature Coast are not needed and would only destroy many homes, farmlands, and wildlife corridors, and further pollute our diminishing supply of fresh water. Let the FDOT concentrate on improving existing infrastructure and quit trying to pave over every square foot of the state. Let’s coexist with what is left of our natural environment.”

Maxine Connor, representing the Citrus County League of Women Voters stated: “The League is thankful that FDOT listened to local governments, local organizations, and the public when making the choice to shift away from cutting any new corridors through rural Florida and instead dedicating resources to prioritize improvements on the Interstate 75 corridor.  However, FDOT’s use of the word ‘pause’ regarding this matter is not the same as the word ‘stop.’  We must all ensure we remain vigilant of any studies, processes, or legislation ahead so that we are able to stay involved in any public input process to stop the creation of these needless, expensive, and environmentally damaging roads.”

“This is not only a victory for residents in Tillman’s Hammock, Royal, Wildwood, and Sumter County, it is a victory for local government decision-makers in places like Citrus, Levy, and Dunnellon who represented the will of their voters and took a hard line against this toll road proposal and cemented themselves on the right side of history, saving Sumter residents after our own Commissioners failed to be our ‘voice.’ As a Sumter voter, I think it’s time we elected a new slate of commissioners for Sumter County who actually represent long-time residents, and not developers.” stated, Tillman’s Hammock activist Gay Lynn Light.

The fact that the 2019 and 2021 bills creating the threat of destruction to so many rural Florida communities were sponsored by legislators from outside of the 4-county area wasn’t lost on anyone.  Michael McGrath, Sierra Club Organizing Representative added:  “Senator Gayle Harrell told a reporter last week that FDOT ‘will find another way of doing this–they are not giving up on this.’  Come on Senator Harrell, we weren’t born yesterday.  It isn’t FDOT, but rather legislators like you who want to keep this really bad, really expensive idea going.  All of us, taxpayers everywhere in the state, should be holding you and the rest of our state legislators accountable.”


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BACKGROUND:  In 2019 the bill creating the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, and while M-CORES was technically repealed in 2021, the threat of a proposed Northern Turnpike Extension remained, and in the autumn of 2021, four potential routes of the Northern Turnpike Extension were announced.  After almost a full year of historic levels of organizing across Citrus, Levy, Marion, and Sumter counties, and the adoption of “No Build” resolutions by by the Levy County Commission, Citrus County Commission, Dunnellon City Council, Inverness City Council, Inglis Town Commission, Yankeetown Council, and Bronson Town Council, the Florida Department of Transportation announced on August 4, 2022 that it was pausing the project due to its failure to identify any viable corridor.

Go to the No Roads to Ruin Coalition website for more information.