In 1940, Dade County Commissioner Charles H. Crandon published a pamphlet explaining that “Miami owns no public bathing beach whatsoever. . . . If we lose Biscayne Key, we lose, for all time, the last and only available island beach. This must not occur.”
That same year, the Matheson family donated to the county 950 acres of prime property on Key Biscayne — including two miles of oceanfront beach — for Crandon Park, a place of natural beauty for families to escape from the frenetic pace of urban life.
The Mathesons’ gift contained a deed restriction that Crandon Park “shall be perpetually used and maintained for public park purposes only.” Starting in the 1990s, however, the county began operating a professional sports tournament at Crandon — virtually ousting the public from the park — and making proposals for massive professional sports facilities to be built there.
As these proposals and commercial uses were plainly not for “public park purposes only,” the Mathesons sought to stop them and preserve the integrity of a park that the Florida District Court of Appeal called a “sylvan spot of tranquility.”
A 1993 settlement was implemented through a comprehensive Crandon Park Master Plan and restrictive covenants that placed strict limitations on additional structures or commercial uses within the park. Since that time a Master Plan Amendment Committee has rejected several proposals for further buildings or commercialization there.
Now local politicians propose a 50-year sweetheart deal that would cost the public millions in lost revenue by continuing to exempt the tournament from paying 10 percent of gross revenues to the county for maintaining the park, as required by the master plan. The deal also includes $50 million in county bonds for massive additions to the existing stadium together with retail space, offices, restaurants and other so-called “amenities.”
No plans or specifications have been provided to voters depicting any of these commercial facilities. More important, the County Commission has never informed the public that none of these proposed facilities would even be permitted under the Crandon Park Master Plan or its restrictive covenants.
Nevertheless, the county is proceeding with a referendum required by Article 7 of the home-rule charter asking for public approval of these vaguely described facilities.
We must reject yet another attempt to destroy what was meant to be enjoyed by families and future generations. Vote No on this misguided proposal that exploits for commercial use one of our most priceless environmental resources.
Bruce C. Matheson, Miami