Split Oak Forest is one of Lake Nona’s hidden treasures. From its beautiful nature trails to serving as a home to wildlife and numerous plant species, this is the perfect spot for nature lovers in Lake Nona. The wildlife conservation area is located right off of Clapp Simms Duda Road, and it connects to the back of Moss Park. For the past couple of years, Valerie Anderson, president of Friends of Split Oak, as well as Eric Rollings, chair of the Committee to Save Split Oak, and both of their teams have worked extremely hard to stop the Central Florida Expressway from being built through the forest. They have made it a priority to attend every single meeting discussing this topic. While the toll road being built is still under discussion, the Committee to Save Split Oak has already delayed it by 3½ years.
As we all know, there is construction constantly being done all over our town. Being a member of the Lake Nona community, I know how exciting it can be to finally get that store or restaurant I have been waiting for since I moved here. This road is not intended to add on to the number of stores we have. This toll road is simply being built for the development of homes and would make for a quicker way to get across town. While this construction may add to our convenience, it is absolutely destroying our nature and wildlife. On SaveSplitOak.org, they mention that the potential Central Florida Expressway road is a “Toll Road to Nowhere.”
If they build this highway through the forest, they will be tearing down the home to nearly 30 endangered and threatened species, such as Florida scrub jays, gopher tortoises, bald eagles, snakes, grasses, sandhill cranes, and more. Animals such as the Florida scrub jays are only located in our state, and if we destroy their home at Split Oak, we will be a part of the reason that these birds go extinct. If the road is built right through their habitats, they will be facing even greater risk. On top of that, they will be taking away a safe space for nature lovers in Orange and Osceola counties.
When Split Oak was founded in 1994, it was meant to be set aside for Orange County residents in perpetuity. The CFX proposal is completely disregarding this. The Orange County Commission voted to protect the forest but has since voted to destroy it. The Committee to Save Split Oak’s slogan is “Promises are meant to be kept,” since this preserve was meant to be set aside for good. Anderson stated, “Appreciate our green space. Learn what you can do to protect it.”
After speaking with Anderson and Rollings, I have learned how passionate they are about protecting this sacred land. Split Oak is their home away from home, and it would be a shame to watch it disappear. If we do not protect this forest, similar scenarios will happen to forests all over Florida. The Committee to Save Split Oak and the Friends of Split Oak encourage us as a community to Vote Yes to Amendment 2 in the Orange County election on Nov. 3. They also encourage hiking the Split Oak Trails so we can learn to appreciate the beauty it has to offer as well as donating to either committee.
For more information about the conservation of the forest, feel free to visit FriendsOfSplitOak.org and SaveSplitOak.org. As Lake Nona Residents, we should show our support to these organizations and the conservation area. If you are looking for a way to clear your mind, get the kids out of the house, or spend some time in nature, head on over to Split Oak. You won’t regret it!
Photos Courtesy of Friends of Split Oak