Florida officials approve plan for extending toll road through Split Oak Forest

Members of the Florida Communities Trust Governing Board on Wednesday voted unanimously to allow the extension of the Osceola Parkway through part of the Split Oak Forest.

It was a request from both Orange and Osceola counties.

The nearly 1,700 acres of land that makes up the forest was bought by Orange and Osceola counties more than two decades ago through the state to protect wildlife and to provide activities like hiking.

"It’s horrible," said Angel Bolanos, who regularly hikes in the forest. "With the expansion we have going on in Florida right now, it’s just, sometimes it’s just too much. When you start disturbing the nature and all the animals that we have over here, it’s not fair."

The plan would add about 1,500 acres of land, but some say that's not good enough.

A group opposed to the road doesn't just worry about the forest but about the precedent.

"This is really important for the rest of the state of Florida," said Valerie Anderson, president of the Friends of Split Oak Forest. "What happens when the park near you, and the developers eyeing that for a land swap, is eyeing that for a toll road, is eyeing that for commercial development? Split Oak is the beginning of that."

A couple of years ago, Orange County voters approved a measure preventing development in the forest.

Anderson hopes that could ultimately stop the project.

"Once this comes back to Orange County commissioners, what are they going to do? Are they going to violate their charter?" Anderson said.

A spokesperson for Orange County told FOX 35 their attorney is studying Wednesday's decision and what the county or its commissioners will have to do next.

Osceola County did not immediately respond to a request for comment.