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Highway route through wilderness area sparks Hillsborough environmental concerns

A state proposal would extend Pasco’s SR 56 through the Lower Green Swamp and Upper Hillsborough Preserves.

Moving traffic around the city of Zephyrhills could mean directing cars and trucks onto a new road through two nature preserves totaling more than 22,000 acres.

The plan, one of two under consideration by the state Department of Transportation, “just basically takes the route through that entire wilderness area; fragments it, splits it in half,” said Forest Turbiville, director of Hillsborough’s Conservation and Environmental Lands Management Department.

The state proposal calls for extending State Road 56 eastward from its current terminus at U.S. 301 to meet U.S. 98. The 15-mile route would travel along the Pasco-Hillsborough county line, putting it in the location where Hillsborough County’s 12,800-acre Lower Green Swamp Nature Preserve meets the 9,961-acre Upper Hillsborough Preserve owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.