Hundreds of people marched to Coral Reef Drive on Saturday for the preservation of the area’s pine rocklands.
The future of the endangered forest has come into question after talks surfaced about building a Walmart and other commercialized developments in its place.
This was the first event hosted by the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition, a newly formed group that advocates for the preservation of the land, which includes acres of rocklands with plants, animals and insects not found anywhere else.
The event Saturday was planned to protest Palm Beach County Developer Ram Realty’s plans to open a Walmart and commercial developments in the area.
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People who attended the march said paving the land to put in a commercialized development would lead to a loss of federally protected species.
Before the march, many people spoke about the importance of preserving the land and how to help advocate for it.
Retired local television journalist Al Sunshine, co-director of the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition, kicked off the event, saying the area is a nationally protected, critically endangered habitat. He said they are fighting to preserve the last two percent of the pine rocklands remaining.
“This is a proposed environmental crime,” he said. “This is an area that needs to be treasured, not an area that needs to be paved over.”
Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner brought a statue of the Lorax, the guardian of the forest from the Dr. Seuss book. Before the march, she read the quote: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better, it’s not.”
“[Lorax] is emblematic of what everybody is standing here for today,” she said. “You all are here because you care a whole awful lot and you want it to get better and we are going to ensure that it does get better.”
Lerner said that her village had passed a resolution urging Miami-Dade commissioners to protect this property.
“We are asking all our neighboring municipalities to do the same,” she said, “and take on this fight with us.”
Several other experts spoke about the damage the proposed projects would have on the area.
Protestors came out with signs with such slogans as “Don’t tear down paradise to put another Walmart,” “This is not a slum” and “Save it, don’t pave it.”
As they marched down to the area where the proposed Wal-Mart would be, protesters held their signs high and chanted “Save it don’t pave it.” Several cars honked in support of the rally, which stretched at least four blocks.
In contrast to the protestor’s sentiments, Ram released a statement Friday saying the area is not a “pristine forest,” and something needs to be done for it to be maintained.
“Over the last 70 years, the site has been used for military purposes, a medical research facility, commercial buildings, residential buildings, enclosures for animals, an incinerator, and blimp bays,” the statement said. “As such, the area is severely degraded and will continue to deteriorate unless significant resources and consistent management efforts are put into place.”
Ram said it is developing a plan with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore nearly 40 percent of the property to its natural native state. However, people argued that was not enough.
Although this is the first event held by the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition, organizers said they will not stop here, and will continue to fight for the area’s preservation.
“The sun came over the Pine Rocklands this morning. I want to make sure it sets tonight over pine rocklands and it never sets over a Walmart or a theme park, paved over where this habitat used to be,” Sunshine said. “It must be preserved.”