Alachua County Begins Road Closing for Wetland Restoration

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223rd Street. The county proposed to permanently close the roads in a wetlands restoration effort. Matthew Lussier, 50 from Hawthorne, stands on the closed portion of Southeast 223rd Street. (Lucas Wilson/WUFT News)
Matthew Lussier, 50, from Hawthorne, stands on the closed portion of SE 223rd Street. Alachua County proposed to permanently close the roads in a wetlands restoration effort.  (Lucas Wilson/WUFT News).

For two years, Matthew Lussier has worked with local and state government agencies to help restore wetlands behind his dairy and property that he leases.

Now, Alachua County is moving to close a portion of the road between the two properties.

Lussier Dairy, located north of Hawthorne on U.S. 301, is separated from the Little Orange Creek Preserve by only SE 223rd Street, a narrow dirt road. Over time, water flowing from U.S. 301 and heavy rains washed sediment down a creek, across the road and into the preserve.

This sediment has begun to have an effect on the balance of the ecosystem in the wetland.

Chris Bird, Environmental Protection Director for Alachua County, said that closing the road is a crucial step toward the restoration.

“With the road closed, we will be able to move forward in simulating how the wetlands were before the road was installed,” he said.

The Alachua County Board of Commissioners moved to begin the process of closing the road, which has been temporarily closed for months, on Jan. 12. This permanent closure would make areas for vehicles and emergency responders to turn around.

Before any closures are to be made, the Alachua County Board of Commissioners will have to hold a public forum and talk to property owners along the road about the closure. Access to driveways and private properties should not be affected.

After the portion of the road is closed, the county will continue to work with Lussier and the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) to plant trees and remove dirt that has built up in the beginning of the preserve.

Lussier has offered to take the sediment that is removed from the preserve and use it on his farm, easing the costs on the county.

Since the beginning of the project, the SJRWMD has seen significant improvements on the land.

“He’s implemented some best management practices to keep cattle out of the area in order to rebuild it,” said Allen Baggett, Environmental Resource Program Coordinator.

The proposed plan by the SJRWMD to continue restoring the proposed area can be found here.

“My son’s going to farm here, my grandkids are going to be raised here. Of course I want to see the wetlands here, still beautiful,” said Lussier.

About Lucas Wilson

Lucas is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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