Alternatives to the 2009 proposed master plan for Virginia Key are now being mulled over by community groups, public officials, editorial writers and even University of Miami Architecture School students in a special design workshop on Virginia Key. The City of Miami Commission is set to reconsider the Virginia Key Master Plan in May 2010.
What will guide decisions about what, where and how the island should be used? Should public land be redeveloped using the same principles as private property? Do private sector rules of highest and best use apply? Does public access trump revenue generation by a cash-strapped city? Should short term goals override sound, long-term planning? Is the fragile environment of Virginia Key going to survive?
Perhaps a lesson from the recent past can help. In 1999, the City of Miami was in the throes of a financial crisis, much like today, and Virginia Key public land was seen as an opportunity to increase revenues, much like today. Sensing a need for some kind of order amid the chaos of competing interests, University of Miami Professor Greg Bush, then president of the Urban Environment League, came up with these guiding “Principles for the Future of Virginia Key.” Here is Here are the principles:
-Free and clear public access to the beach and all public property should be maintained.
-Public participation should be insured throughout the process of re-designing the use of public land with due public notice given in major newspapers. The need for public charrettes, paid for by the city and other sources of funds is paramount. All city and county reports should be completed on schedule and issued in writing.
-Those Virginia Key Advisory Board or Waterfront Board members with personal interest of their own, or by members of their family or close personal friends in future economic benefit from the and in question should consider that this might constitute a conflict of interest and should consider removing themselves from their respective Committees.
-Public bathroom facilities should be made available to all and adequate security should be maintained in all public parks.
-Public access to public land should not be inhibited by parking restrictions or inadequate public transportation.
-Public parkland should be used to enhance the appreciation of nature through walking trails, public campgrounds. It should also provide places of contemplation and relaxation as well as be redesigned for active recreational uses and as entertainment venues. There is a paramount value to keep all activity small scale.
-Public parkland on Virginia Key should be used to memorialize the civil rights struggle of African Americans. A memorial structure should be constructed modeled after the FDR memorial in Washington D.D. that will be a place of contemplation and tell the history of the struggle. It should be developed in cooperation with the Black Archives. The site should be a non-commercial service to the community, act as a tourist destination. All proceeds should benefit underprivileged youth.
-A suitable memorial should be created for all those from Cuba and Haiti who arrived on the shores of Virginia Key in their flight from oppression.
-Commercial eating facilities should be strictly limited to small scale operations.
-Educational programs for youth should be a major objective in redesigning the public parkland – done in conjunction with the Biscayne Nature Center.
-This Committee should be retained during the entire process of the planning for Virginia Key not merely to help with Specification for RFP’s so that there be continuity of knowledge.
-A Wilderness Campground should be created for inner city children, children at risk, and others, similar to the youth camp at Biscayne National Park.
-Any designs should be completed only after full and active consultation with local experts in the fields of environmental science and local history and with due deference to the ecological and historical nature of this island.
Welcome to the UEL.ORGThe UEL is a advocacy organization that supports environmentally responsible development and smart growth. We work to protect the public waterfront, public spaces, and historic and natural areas in Miami-Dade county. Our blog is a forum for discussion, and may not reflect the opinion of all board members. If you support smart growth and environmental protection please join us!
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