South Miami

South Miami

South Miami wants linear park under Metrorail

 

Special to the Miami Herald

South Miami commissioners have endorsed a proposed 10-mile linear park underneath the Metrorail.

But Mayor Philip Stoddard worries that the park plan could be derailed if state officials approve Florida Power and Light’s plans for power lines on 80- to 100-foot towers along U.S. 1.

FPL, however, says any assertion that the power lines and park are incompatible is “flat out wrong.”

The GreenLink, a proposed renovation of the M-Path for bicycles and pedestrians along U.S. 1, is now being promoted by various county agencies, including the parks department and transit department. The idea to use the “underutilized land” came from Friends of the GreenLink founder, Meg Daly.

“We are a non-profit organization trying to convert the land under Metrorail from Brickell Station to Dadeland South,” Daly said. M-Path “is county land, but initially meant for maintenance of the Metrorail. We see that as underutilized space and we are trying to convert it into a 10-mile continuous trail and linear park.”

The GreenLink would be similar to New York City’s High Line, the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago, and Indianapolis’ Cultural Trail. The High Line has been credited with spurring development along its path.

“I caught wind of it and I loved the idea,” Stoddard said. “It’s something we wanted to do anyway, but certainly in South Miami. The High Line got a huge payback and was a really good investment.”

Friends of the GreenLink, which launched on Jan. 1, is working on the project with the Miami-Dade county parks department, the transit department, and the University of Miami school of architecture, according to Daly. The non-profit is comprised of 20 members with expertise in marketing, finance, urban planning, and architecture.

“The University of Miami devoted a studio class this semester to look at the tract of land and give it the vision of what it could be,” Daly said. “The vision plan is really just the first step. There is an architectural rendering; we have to raise money and all of that stuff. We are really in the first stage of this thing.”

But according to Stoddard, the vision could blur if FPL’s transmission lines is built around the green space, as he said in a letter to the editor to the Miami Herald on April 7, written with Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner.

“Our point was: ‘Hey, this is a good idea but you have to be aware that in May, FPL is planning to kill it,” Stoddard said. “Step up and pay attention because everybody loves this idea and possibility, but if FPL does the transmission lines, it’s pretty much dead.”

FPL’s application process for licenses and permits has seen numerous lawsuits in several years. Last year a series of public meetings and an eight-week long hearing took place in Miami-Dade County regarding the subject

FPL is awaiting a decision on where it can put its power lines, which could come at a May 13 at a meeting of the Florida Power Plant Siting board, composed of Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet, in Tallahassee.

“I know some people have suggested that the transmission line would basically rule out the park being there,” FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said. “That’s just flat out wrong. Whoever suggested that, unfortunately is misinformed or they are spreading information that’s wrong. Projects just like the GreenLink make sense.”

Robbins said FPL brought forth a “very similar project” in 2011 and that “anybody who says the two projects can’t coexist is wrong.”

“You can build it with the transmission lines, but there is a strong correlation between living near transmission lines and Alzheimer’s disease,” Stoddard said. “You are going to find people a little reluctant to recreate underneath the transmission lines. I’m not even sure you would be allowed to build a park because transmission lines require open space underneath them and turning it into parks is not usually done.”

Robbins said that FPL is “fully supportive” of the GreenLink.

“These projects, the transmission line and the GreenLink, can absolutely coexist,” Robbins said. “We think it’s a good opportunity to work with the GreenLink team. A lot of times, what we do is work with teams like that to make sure things are being looked at when they are designing a park.”

The GreenLink would travel a mile and a half through South Miami and two and a half miles through Coral Gables.

Daly said it is difficult to say what threat the FPL lines would cause because the company has not yet published detailed plans for where the lines will go.

“My issue is that if it threatens the continuity of our 10-mile vision, that’s going to be a problem,” Daly said. “It’s difficult to say where the problems are because there is nothing on paper from FPL that says what their plan is. They are not going to even create a plan until they get the approval of the corridor.”

Information on the GreenLink can be found at www.thegreenlink.org.

“The FPL plans have something like 100 months until completion,” Daly said. “We are talking years from now. I certainly hope that if the GreenLink can get up quickly, people will see that asset there and weigh the pros and cons of having poles in that space.”

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