This is so much more than a turnpike destroying over 600 homes! As you will see when you read the story of The Le Blanc Family…the OTA in some cases plans on destroying their home, their livelihood and their lifestyle.
MEET THE LE BLANC FAMILY…PLEASE SHARE
Our family home lies in the direct path of the proposed south extension Access Oklahoma turnpike near Lake Thunderbird in Norman. My husband, Cedric, and I met as teenagers at Norman High School in 1999 and this year we will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary! We lived a few years out of state, but we moved back home while I was pregnant with our first child, to be closer to our families and support networks.
In 2009 we bought our first (and forever) home on two acres in east Norman. Initially we wanted more land, but our priority was to stay in Norman Public Schools and a modest ranch home on a neglected small acreage was all we could afford. Since 2009, we’ve grown our family of three into a family of five (the youngest was even born in the living room). We’ve slowly completed several home improvements ourselves and turned an overgrown acreage into a food garden oasis. We’ve built greenhouses and in late 2020, we started a family business growing Oklahoma native plants and culinary herbs to sell at local Farmer’s Markets.
We’ve put our blood, sweat, hopes, and dreams into this small parcel of red Oklahoma dirt.
Growing anything here is an unpredictable battle – we’ve fought hailstones, heatwaves, floods, and tornadoes. In 2010, an EF4 tornado cut through our street and we witnessed the Oklahoma standard first-hand as complete strangers rallied to offer assistance and clean debris. Never did I think that soon my family would battle another disaster: the overreach of the OTA, as it seeks to permanently destroy over 600 family homes and rain down destruction more long-lasting than a tornado on thousands of Oklahoma citizens.
On February 22 my family’s life changed forever when the Access Oklahoma route dropped straight on top of our living room. Our future is in jeopardy, our business is in jeopardy, and our three school-age children are deeply affected:
Eight year old Nolan doesn’t understand why people would pay money to drive a turnpike when there are free roads!
Ten year old Inara worries about leaving school friends she has known since kindergarten when we are displaced from our home.
Thirteen year old Elijah co-authored a bill to ‘eliminate future turnpikes’ which he presented on April 1 during Middle School Legislative Day at the Oklahoma capitol. My husband and I held off on telling the kids about the turnpike for a few weeks because it took that long for us to talk about it without breaking down. When we finally did tell Elijah, he already knew! He wrote his bill before knowing his family was directly affected because it is obvious, even to a teenager, that this turnpike proposal is wrong.
The OTA claims the route for the proposed southeastern turnpike through Norman was chosen to minimize the number of impacted homes, but they also claim they do not know how many homes may be destroyed. These contradictory statements show that OTA is either lying or inept. It doesn’t take a civil engineering degree to use public data and count that there are over 600 homes directly in the proposed turnpike line of destruction.
Two professional engineers worked together and found alternate routes that took two, three, or six times fewer homes than the current proposed turnpike route! There are also routes which use already existing roadways that would displace zero Oklahomans. Why did OTA not consider alternate routes? If OTA cannot be bothered to perform these types of alternative analysis, how can we possibly believe that their decisions harm the fewest number of Oklahomans? Why does OTA not consider the fiscal, environmental, or human impact of their turnpikes? Why were legislators in the House and Senate blind-sided by the February 22 Access Oklahoma turnpike proposal? Why does OTA have zero accountability to the people of Oklahoma?
The people of Norman don’t want this turnpike. The Norman municipal government doesn’t want this turnpike. The state of Oklahoma doesn’t need this turnpike. When the Access Oklahoma map dropped, our family lost our agency and our autonomy – we cannot sell our house, we should not bother to do home improvements, and our family business might close due to this uncertainty. We do not know how long we will be in this terrible limbo and meanwhile mortgage interest rates rise, the housing shortage deepens, and our future in this state looks bleak. This year we planted a garden but we’ve stopped planting trees.
The overreach of OTA needs to be reigned in to prevent future Oklahomans from experiencing the nightmare that my family is living through.
Additional photos of our property throughout the years can be found at https://www.instagram.com/beeing_farms/