Virginia Key Under Threat, by Joe Wilkins
Miami Monthly, September 2009
Huck Finn had the Mississippi River. Jim Hawkins had Treasure Island. I had Sewer Beach, and never felt cheated at all. Sewer Beach, better known as the ocean side of Virginia Key, and the other areas surrounding the Sewage Treatment Plant, were where I spent some of the best parts of my misspent youth. It was the perfect place for a kid to explore, escape and make mischief. Today, like many of our natural treasures, it is under a serious threat.
A while back, the City of Miami spent a million dollars of your money to hire the international design firm EDSA to devise a plan for the future of this area. They held several well attended community meetings, allegedly to gather public input. When the plan was unveiled early this year, it stunk worse than the input to the treatment plant.
I was at one of the meetings, and have talked to folks who were at the others. The community’s consensus was that VK should be restored and preserved for passive nature appreciation and education. This consensus was ignored. The plan called for multiple unneeded buildings, numerous paved parking lots, and many other intrusive facilities.
Among other things, the plan recommends putting athletic playing fields on top of a toxic dump. We definitely need more recreation facilities for our children, but these should be in the neighborhoods where the kids actually live. DERM is studying how to best clean up the site, but I explored the landfill when it was still in operation and have my doubts. I know what is there, and would not recommend a parent to let their children play there unless they favor having three-headed grandchildren.
The EDSA plan also calls for buildings that would block the view from the road of the Miami Marine Stadium, a criminally neglected architectural and historic landmark. A proposed marina would destroy the unique world class rowing course used for many years by the Miami Rowing Club for training and competition. The plan’s parking lots would create a very car oriented facility; completely ignoring the need for “green” public transportation, and adding to the existing traffic nightmares on Rickenbacker Causeway.
The plan immediately drew outrage from just about every environmental and community group in town, including the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Urban Environment League, Dade Heritage Trust, Miami Neighborhoods United, Friends of Virginia Key, etc. It was unanimously rejected by the city’s Waterfront Advisory and Planning Advisory boards. It was supposed to go before the city commission in July, but Mayor Diaz wisely took it off the table; hopefully giving us time to come up with an alternative community plan that really reflects the wishes and needs of the community.
There are other problems with the plan, too numerous to mention here. When the mayor’s term ends in November, hopefully so will his “no green space left behind” policies. With any luck, the next administration will understand that we don’t need any more buildings and parking lots in our parks. What we need are places for kids of all ages to enjoy our unique natural environment.
You can view the most current plan here. To share your opinions with our elected officials hit here. If you want to help in future efforts to protect VK, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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