Royal Road descends with a whoosh to the lip of Biscayne Bay. There you’ll find an oasis with a lovely ocean vista, a cooling breeze on your skin and the soothing sound of waves lapping against the seawall.
You’ll also find discarded beer cans and condoms, pizza boxes, cigarette butts and an occasional pair of underwear.
You might run into someone fishing or smoking a joint or sipping whiskey or reminiscing about old Coconut Grove.
“We used to call this Big Hill Road because we’d ride our bikes down to the bottom at high speed,” said Will Gaines, a former Grove resident, describing one of the steepest hills in pancake-flat Miami.
It’s a shabbily charming spot, but it could be so much nicer.
“It’s always been a dump at the end of the road, a trash pile with a view,” said Glenn Terry, a Grove activist and resident for 42 years. “It’s an interesting patch of earth that is gnarly and unloved.”
It is also one of the very few waterfront places accessible to people who don’t own multimillion dollar homes. The dead end off Main Highway that abuts Ransom-Everglades School on one side and the Australian pines of the vast yard of a large residential property on the other is the closest access point for West Grove residents.
“Public space is a human right, yet we have so many waterfront spaces in our waterfront city closed off by gates and walls and guard houses,” said Brian Carson, a Grove resident and landscape architect who sees enormous potential at the end of Royal Road.
“It’s a jewel,” he said. “I’ve had lots of conversations with the regulars. No matter what they may look like they are passionate about preserving that space.”
Carson wants to beautify and strengthen the 30-by-60-foot plot so it can adapt to the sea-level rise changes of the future. He has developed a plan to convert the neglected, graffiti-accented hangout into a mini park with a bench, picnic table, bike rack, kayak launch, dock and garbage cans. His landscape design would include rain gardens to filter the stormwater that runs down the sloping road into the bay and salt-tolerant plants and trees that could survive flooding.
“Right now it’s difficult for things to grow there,” he said. “We want to make it a pilot project for resilient parks and shorelines.”
Robert Lloyd collaborated on the proposal from the Grove 2030 group that has been selected as a finalist in the Miami Foundation’s Public Space Challenge. Winners of grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 will be announced Aug. 29.
“These are public rights of way and it is super important to keep them public,” said Lloyd, who used to live on bayfront Matheson Avenue, where people once went fishing but that has since been turned into a gated entry street. “Royal Road has a lot of history.”
Carson, Lloyd and Terry have discussed the concept with Miami Commissioner Ken Russell and the parks department and found support for maintenance of the mini park.
“It’s a place that can speak the language of sea level rise and educate the public about what’s happening,” said Daniela Romero, a landscape architect who helped Carson and Lloyd with the proposal. “It’s a gateway that belongs to the people, and we want to bring the ocean to the community.”