When I reached Gregory Bush on his cell phone Tuesday, he was riding his bicycle home from his teaching job at the University of Miami.
No, he doesn’t talk and pedal, so I had to call him back.
But his bicycle-riding is a relevant detail because Bush, the director of the Institute for Public History at the University of Miami, practices what he believes, and he has a vision for Miami worthy of consideration.
At the cornerstone is a lifestyle of more walking and bicycling, fewer cars and more water taxis, with the goal of minimizing car traffic and maximizing the use of public transportation. Add to this equation an integrated waterfront easily accessible for all to enjoy, even those of us who live far from the bay and the sea, and we’ve got, well, a closer version of paradise.
So close, in fact, that I call it utopian.
“I don’t consider myself utopian at all,” Bush says. “A more fully integrated Miami waterfront with water taxis, etc., is possible. It would add significant economic advantages and jobs to the community.”
Respect for waterfront park space adds value, he argues.
Bush, who with others created the Urban Environment League in 1996, is worth listening to because he has already made a difference in this town.
He helped lead the effort to preserve Virginia Key Beach and the Miami Circle and to stop the Marlins from building their baseball stadium at Bicentennial Park. On Saturday, he’s launching Nature Links for Lifelong Learning at Virginia Beach Park to involve developmentally delayed young adults, ages 22 to 30, in growing a native plant habitat.
But, as Bush and I are having this conversation, the City of Miami is scaling back on a key component of the bayfront Museum Park project: the grand design features of the “park” part of the project for which the city has already shelled out $4.2 million to the New York firm of Cooper Robertson & Partners.
The waterfront space flanking the art and science museums was supposed to rival Chicago’s Millennium Park, but faced with insurmountable financial issues, the city has had to drastically cut back.
They’ve simplified the plans for a new baywalk and promenade from Biscayne Boulevard to Biscayne Bay to provide pedestrian access to the museums, but the park will be basically trees, sod and connecting pathways.
“Museums is where the money is,” laments Bush. “When there are money problems, parks always take the hit.”
Museums, indeed, have wealthy patrons who help build magnificent structures and fund art collections. One could only hope for similar benefactors for parks, as the financial picture is not likely to improve in time for the opening of the art museum in 2013 and the science museum in 2014.
With the city’s financial picture being what it is, there might have been no choice but to scale back the grandeur of Museum Park, but the vision for artfully designed green space that’s as grand as the museums around it shouldn’t be lost.
But can our politically-fragmented city carry through with at least this one vision for our waterfront?
“Miami needs a lot of work,” Bush says, adding that there needs to be more public involvement for the city to turn around.
I seldom hear truer words.