Miami city commission approves purchase of Palm Grove land for park

Palm Grove residents are finally going to be able to enjoy watching manatees slowly swim down the the Little River from their own green space as the Miami city commission approved the purchase of a 1.2-acre waterfront lot property that it has long been planning to turn into a public park.

After months of back-and-forth negotiations, the City has come to a deal with the owner of the property, artist and former Biscayne Times publisher Skip Van Cel, to buy the land for $590,000.

“I’m fine with the price. It’s going to be a park and that’s what’s going to be important,” Van Cel said.

Negotiations for the property had stalled for months because the city had withdrawn its application for grant money that would be used for the purchase.

Then, Van Cel wasn’t happy when the city appraised the value of the property at $530,000 and he accused city staff members of pressuring an appraiser to produce a lower figure. Another appraisal was made, and a deal was reached.

Funding for the soon-to-be-park, located between 457 and 485 N. E. 77 Street Rd., will come in part from a $117,500 Florida Inland Navigation District Land grant.

The remaining $482,500 will to be paid from the Biscayne Bay/Miami River land Acquisition Trust Fund, which is administered by the state and can only be used by the City for the construction of waterfront parks.

The park will be called “Manatee Bend,” due to the number of manatees that tend to congregate in that area of the river and “bend” because the Miami River curves in that section, explained Van Cel. Amenities will include kayaking or some type of public boating activity as part of the plan, according to city documents.

“We worked very hard in the community to get it,” said Alisa Cepeda, North Palm Grove Community Organization secretary.

Cepeda also said the park will be a “passive park,” which means that no events or festivals will be celebrated there.

“It’s going to be a park for the community to enjoy watching the manatees,” she said.

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