A group of activists tired of waiting for the county and the Miami Heat to create a long-promised public park behind AmericanAirlines Arena took matters into its own hands Saturday morning.
A little after 11 a.m., about 100 cyclists rode into Parcel B, a three-acre paved lot wedged between the arena and Biscayne Bay, equipped with sidewalk chalk, a rainbow parachute, bottles of bubbles and sports balls. Calling it “Dan Paul Park” — named for the late environmental and First Amendment litigator — attendees played four square, juggled and did yoga. The event was organized by Emerge Miami, The New Tropic and the Urban Environment League and saw about 130 people at its height.
Parcel B, typically used for below-market-rate valet parking, finally looked like a park.
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“We invited everybody to have a picnic here and bring their picnic games to try to make the best out of a slab of asphalt that shouldn’t be here in the first place,” said Adam Schachner, an organizer with community-building organization Emerge Miami.
When the arena was approved in 1996, it came with a referendum that promised a waterfront park behind the arena. Instead, the paved area remains bordered by fences with “No Trespassing” signs.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez said Parcel B needs to move closer to becoming a park and to being conjoined with the other parks on the bay walk.
“They’re doable; they’re financeable,” Suarez said. “Don’t let folks in the county say we don’t have the money. We have lots of money. We just don’t use it right.”
The park’s namesake, who died in 2010, was a strong voice in the fight against overbearing waterfront development.
“It’s a travesty,” said Francesca Violich, who has lived in Miami for 30 years. “We have so little bayfront public land and this, once again, is just being wasted on valet parking to pay homage to the basketball gods.”