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January 2012 – More Construction…

Last month we described some of the history of US-41 as it relates to the Koreshans and to Estero. This month, we want to look back at more of that history.

The “American Eagle” carried a front page article in their April 1978 issue, entitled “We The People: Highway 41 – the TAMIAMI TRAIL – calling:[ref]The American Eagle – Vol-57, No-156 – April 1978[/ref]” It read…

Twenty-two years ago the Florida Department of Transportation bought the land necessary to finish the eastside of Highway 41 from the property owners in Estero. The westside had been finished, the mere 4.8 miles to follow. Property owners had to close their businesses on the unpaved stretch to wait for DOT to finalize the deal.

Now, with the Florida Department of History planning a “Williamsburg” in this area, without even owning all the land they included, the federal Department of Transportation was told not to spend the money on the four-laning on Highway 41 through Estero, just turn the clock back — back to where?
What do the property owners say to that? In a public hearing in November 1977 95% protested against such breach of trust. Did 95% convince the history department of the people’s voice? NO, the opponents still pursue their plan to build a western route and retire the original Tamiami Trail to county level or to the pioneers cow trail.
More hearings, more meetings, more travel of officials have to be financed by the taxpayers so “Williamsburg” can get off the drawing board.
VOTERS, TAXPAYERS, PROPERTY OWNERS, TRAVELING PUBLIC — aren’t WE THE PEOPLE? If you drive over this unfinished stretch of Highway 41 you will be convinced that your representatives need to be called for supporting the final four-laning, long overdue. Let your representatives know that you oppose the fact that several millions of dollars should be expended to build the western alternative, while only a fraction of this expense will finish the desparately needed Highway 41 through Estero — a stretch unusable for any other purpose than four-laning. TRAVELERS, VOTERS, TAXPAYERS, PROPERTY OWNERS — express your opinions NOW. Support the two Bills of A. L. “Skip” Bafalis-R, and Richard Stone-D, now pending in Congress. Future generations will thank you for your action while your indecision will burden them. Don’t neglect your duty.

More information followed in the next issue when the American Eagle carried an article about the “Trailblazers”, the group, which included four Koreshans, who made an expedition across the Everglades to Miami in the 1920’s. The article was headlined with “Shall a Dream become a Nightmare?”. Following this was an article from the Fort Myers News-Press:[ref]As Published in the American Eagle, Vol-58, No-157 – May 1978[/ref]

Ft. Myers News-Press Editor’s Opinion U.S. 41 EXPENSES NEEDLESSLY RAISED
Block-headed historical preservationists have put the state into a bind, where the cost of four-laning U.S. 41 at Koreshan Unity State Park will be considerably higher regardless of the road.
We strongly urge Congress to override the decision of federal historic preservation officials by passing a law permitting 41 to be four-laned along its current route at that point. Sen. Richard Stone and Rep. L. A. “Skip” Bafalis have bills in both houses to do that.
Members and officers of Koreshan Un’ity, as well as Estero residents, have repeatedly asked that the present alignment not be changed. The highway, they insist, will in no way harm the Koreshan Unity Settlement or any of its historic character. Yet at the blind urging of Florida Historic Preservation Officer Robert Williams, the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has ordered the highway moved east or west to avoid proximity to the settlement.
The cost of a new route would be millions of dollars higher and might also run into objections from environmentalists, further delaying construction.
Escalating construction costs during the delay are already eating into the funds allocated for the job, and state Department of Transportation officials have been forced to choose a site three-fourths of a mile west of the present route — to the western edges of the park — so that land can be bought and’ design of the highway can proceed.
If congress succeeds in overriding the historic preservationists, the money put into the new alignment will be lost, but that will be cheaper than further delay, state road officials say.
Congressional action is urgent to prevent any more wasted time and money.
Reprint — Fort Myers News-Press

Obviously, the Koreshans, which by this time was Hedwig Michel, were obviously not in favor of moving US-41 to the west. In a following issue of the American Eagle [ref]American Eagle, Vol-58, No-163, November 1978[/ref] Hedwig continued to push for the four-laning through Estero while also attmepting to protect the historic areas.

Here are two maps (click on the link) showing an aerial view with the proposed routes and a second map showing a drawn map.
Click here for Map #1
click here for Map #2

More next month…

Categories: Monthly Feature.

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