The Santa Barbara Boulevard extension has been open to traffic since early August, but Collier County is just now getting ready to officially celebrate the opening of the six-lane route that has brought along a new, wider connection from Davis Boulevard to Rattlesnake Hammock Road.
At 10:30 a.m. Friday, county administrators and dignitaries will converge for a ribbon cutting ceremony at Shepherd of the Glades Lutheran Church, which sits at the southeast end of the extension.
But there are those who aren’t celebrating the new road.
While some neighbors of the $21.4 million project are content with the six-lane corridor, others are rattled by the process it took to get there. For the McEndree family, who live on Everett Street — once a road connecting to Polly Avenue, but now a part of Santa Barbara Boulevard — they’re not totally convinced of the cost savings originally cited by Collier County officials when they proposed the three options for the road locations in the first place.
“We were in the woods for six years, and now we have a six-lane highway in front of our house,” Michael McEndree said. “There were three different proposed options, and we built our house here based on the third option. They did a beautiful road, and it is very convenient. Our only negative is they should have taken it out to Grand Lely (Drive), to U.S. 41.”
The McEndrees are also wondering why their driveway has become a roundabout for lost drivers who need to turn around.
“We have about 10 drivers turn around every day in our driveway,” said Lauren McEndree, who returned to Naples to attend law school at Ave Maria School of Law.
However, for Rev. H. Peter Lyberg, a retired Lutheran minister from Shepherd of the Glades, the new corridor was the exact reason he built his church 30 years ago on the corner of Rattlesnake Hammock and Polly Avenue. Polly was used as the southern end of the extension.
“We started from 17 people and grew to 600 people in our congregation when I retired,” said Lyberg. “And there was a county-wide long range planning map that I saw in the 60’s, and they showed a north-south road where Santa Barbara is, including the stretch from Davis Boulevard to Rattlesnake Hammock.
“The road was supposed to be completed in he 1980’s, and then we didn’t get it. But now, it opens up traffic to northern residents to get to church. At first, the church building was the first there, surrounded by swamp and muck,” Lyberg said.
For other neighbors of the extension, the project also meant a new 10-foot wall in their backyards, such as homeowners in Huntington Woods.
And for Elizabeth Lobos and her family, it presented them with an entirely different street address.
“We like it, and we don’t hear a thing from inside our house,” said Lobos from her home, located just 60 feet from the extension. “My brother lives in Golden Gate city and he used to come down, and around, to get here by using (County Road) 951, Collier Boulevard, and now he can arrive here faster.”
Steve Rocky, another neighbor who lives east of the Lobos family, agreed that the extension has allowed for faster commute times.
“I wasn’t for it at first, because we had a quiet neighborhood that nobody knew about,” he said. “but now you can get anywhere very quickly, and they did a great job expanding it.”
The ribbon cutting ceremony will include local choirs and bands coordinated by school music directors and Connie Dean, the community liaison for the county’s Growth Management Division.
“There will be students from Calusa Park Elementary School singing patriotic songs, such as “America the Beautiful,” “Grand ‘Ole Flag,” and maybe other patriotic songs,” Dean said. “Lely High School will also be arranging for 20 members of their band to be there.”