I had a crazy idea


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A couple of years ago, I was on a leisurely bike ride with my daughter when I lost my balance, fell and broke both of my arms. That was bad. But my husband has an expression, No hay mal que por bien no venga — out of every bad comes good. So this story gets a whole lot better.

I endured three months of intensive physical therapy for my broken arms. Since I couldn’t drive, I took Metrorail to the Douglas Road station and then walked, underneath Metrorail, to therapy in the North Grove. As I walked, I was astounded that there was so much land underneath Metrorail. Even though it was the dead of summer, I could walk comfortably in the shade of the train tracks. The opportunity was obvious.

I have visited New York City’s High Line, the hugely successful above-ground linear park in every season and love it more each time I visit. The High Line was a barely utilized elevated train track.

The land under Metrorail is also underutilized. I thought, “This land should be Miami’s High Line” — but at ground level — and it would be a great public parkway all the way from Brickell Station to Dadeland South. It should have a wide walking and biking path with lush native foliage for all to enjoy. It should be lit, with wider, safer crosswalks, dog parks, exercise zones, activities, events and so much more. Wow! Maybe, people will get out of their cars and ride Metrorail to work because the path is so beautiful. Maybe, this 10-mile stretch of green space will transform the South Dade corridor like the High Line has transformed New York City’s west side. Maybe this isn’t just a crazy idea.

I started talking up my “crazy idea” with people, whenever and wherever I could. Maria Nardi of the Miami-Dade County Parks Department loved it, as did leaders at the Transit Department. It’s Transit’s land, originally earmarked for train and track maintenance. In fact, just about everyone I spoke to thought that I should go for it.

So, I did. Next, we landed in the dean’s office at the University of Miami Architecture School. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, who was then dean, and later Denis Hector, the acting dean, agreed that redesigning this land into a public green space could transform our community. And, since pictures tell 1,000 words, they assigned a class of 10 students to create an architectural vision plan of the whole 10-mile tract. It was a massive undertaking for just one semester.

We now have a working title for this big vision: “The GreenLink.” We also have a nonprofit organization called Friends of the GreenLink. With more than 20 members from the private and public sectors who have already logged thousands of volunteer hours, we have an enthusiastic group to shepherd the process of visioning, funding, building and operating this great public asset.

There’s another saying I like a lot: It takes a village to raise a child.

In this case we need everyone who lives here to step up and take part in defining and building this great vision.

Here’s my call to action: We have a lot of work to do and will have lots of ways for each member of the community to be involved. There will be collaborative community activities, including a competition to name the path, online and on-site forums to comment on architectural plans, an online suggestion box to say what residents want and where they want it and even a video wall to tell everyone why you think our community needs the GreenLink.

Where can you do this? At www.thegreenlink.org. Sign up, tell us what you think, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Join us in designing our city’s future.

Meg Daly is founder and chairman of Friends of the GreenLink.

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