Cutler Bay

Cutler Bay so far receives $834,604 in state, county grants in 2016

In 2011: The town of Cutler Bay dedicates Lakes By the Bay Park.
In 2011: The town of Cutler Bay dedicates Lakes By the Bay Park. Miami Herald File

Town staff and public officials have pressed state and county resources hard to improve Cutler Bay in 2016. That pressure has led to $834,606 in grants, so far this year.

The largest grant: $352,916 for the construction phase of the Safe Routes to School project leading to Cutler Bay Middle School, funded by the Florida Department of Transportation. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection funded a $200,000 grant for a canoe/kayak launch, floating dock, pavilion and parking at Lakes by the Bay Park.

Staff anticipates the canoe/kayak launch project will be completed in less than two years.

Mayor Peggy Bell and town council members made the canoe/kayak launch project part of its state legislative priorities for the past three years. The town proposes to install an Americans with Disabilities Act accessible launch that will allow visitors to access a 21.5-acre lake lined by mangroves and local wildlife. It also proposes to install a floating dock and fishing pier, a pavilion with a picnic table, a walking path and a parking area that provides convenient access to the launch. The town also proposes to add signage to educate visitors about the lake and wetland habitats. The town’s parks master plan, strategic master plan, and the parks and recreation advisory committee support the project.

“It has been a very successful year,” Town Manager Ralph Casals said. “It’s one of the good years we have had in terms of applying for different types of grants. They key for us, as well as the grant review agency, is that we have a plan. Meaning it’s either the projects have been identified in the strategic master plan, in transportation master plan, the streets master plan, or the storm water master plan or the flood mitigation plan. I’m really big on master plans because you go through there and you get the feedback from the community.”

“You go and you see the need for the projects. You go through the process and of public input meetings, and you rank together, with the professional engineers, town staff, as well as residents, and ultimately the plan gets approved by the governing body, which is town council. The granting agencies understand that you have a plan for the projects.”

Cutler Bay was also awarded $143,0190 from the Children’s Trust to support the parks and recreation department’s after-school program at Cutler Ridge Park. The Department of Juvenile Justice also awarded $75,000 to the town to support the afterschool and summer program at Cutler Ridge Park for 75 youth, ages 5 through 11.

The Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) awarded $50,000 to the town to develop a complete streets corridor analysis. The Department of Agriculture awarded the town $13,500 through the Urban and Community Forestry Program to improve the tree canopy in the town center district and provide education to business owners regarding tree planting and landscaping regulations.

“We also pursue grants, such as this FDEP grant, which usually have a 50% match requirement,” Bell said. “Because we have always taken the approach that planning is crucial to our success we have “master plans” or studies that include resident participation in planning for parks, storm water mitigation, transportation, etc., which we can use to provide vital documentation for grant applications. I think this is what sets us apart from most other municipalities, and why we’ve been so successful. We plan well in advance, fund these master plans, but then we use them, they don’t sit on a shelf.”

Casals also said that the town has $1,074,000 in pending grants that have been submitted by town staff.

“I think when we have a master plan and make sure we tie it in with the strategic master plan and then also a lot of these grants require a match from town funds,” Casals said. “So certainly we have an interest in this project as well. For instance, the canoe kayak is a $200,000 grant from the state. We are also putting in $200,000, so it’s a $400,000 project. The granting agencies love the fact that you are also committing your funds as well. “

Bell, elected mayor in 2014, gives credit to the many moving pieces that make growth possible in Cutler Bay.

“We have a small number of key employees, including a very talented grant writer, all professionals dedicated to our success,” Bell explained. “We have a unified council, that listens to the residents and whose goal is to make Cutler Bay the very best it can be. Our manager is innovative, motivated, and responsive to the residents. Together, I’m happy to say, it works.”