During Ludlam Trail Fall Fest, a community event held over the weekend at A.D. Barnes Park in southwest Miami, people of all ages biked the peak of a 12-foot high grassy hill, extending just over six miles in length, where the train tracks from Florida East Coast Railway used to lay. In what may become a 100-foot wide, 6.2 mile linear park and trail for cyclists, pedestrians and residents, the event served as a “first look,” granting the public temporary recreational access to the privately owned corridor.
The four-hour event, which drew about 300 attendees — many of them families — was co-hosted by advocacy group Friends of the Ludlam Trail, which is pushing for the land to become a world-class linear park and trail, and the Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), which owns the stretch of former railroad property spreading from Dadeland to the Blue Lagoon Drive area, just south of Miami International Airport.
“I love it. I mean, it’s still primitive … but it’s in the middle of Miami, so it’s great,” said event attendee Jose Luis Speche, a fan of the expansive grassy hill who’s optimistic about its future as a trail. “It’s residential with good landscape. They still need to do a lot — plant more trees and pave it so any bike can go on it, so there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done.”
“It’s transformational in an urban setting,” said Alfred Lurigados, director of corporate development at FECI, who describes himself as a “converted highway builder” to a “lover of all things bike.”
“Nothing exists like this. The Underline is very urban, very cool,” he says, “but you have the train coming over you. This provides you with peaceful areas, in a park setting like this, and then the gritty areas by the airport.”
During the event, people rented bikes for free from Green Mobility Network or used their own, taking in the serenity of the corridor, which is situated on the brim of property lines of established single-family homes and parks, yet nestled between some of Miami’s most traffic-clogged streets and intersections. The corridor touches several prominent neighborhoods in Miami, and would “connect thousands who live within a half-mile walkable service area to five greenways, five public schools, four parks and two transit hubs,” according to LudlamTrail.org.
“We’ve been working with FECI to help them shape the vision of the project,” said Tony Garcia, chairman of Friends of the Ludlam Trail. “A project like this takes a lot of years to refine. We’re really at the very beginning of the planning process.”
What’s great about the ‘new’ Miami is that we are repurposing urban space and making it public space for generations to come.
Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez
Originally, FECI wanted to develop 80 percent of the 6.2 mile swath, and leave just 20 percent as green space, but after uproar from the public, mainly from nearby homeowners who didn’t want to see their extending backyards become storefronts or housing developments, FECI changed its plans. The company wants to sell 80 percent of the greenway portion to Miami-Dade County, to be turned into a linear park. It would keep 20 percent to turn into high-density development near already-developed Bird Road and Coral Way. Plans and negotiations are still in the preliminary stages.
“I came with my wife and my 20-month-old son who rode on a bicycle for the very first time today on the Ludlam Trail,” Miami District 4 Commissioner Francis Suarez told the crowd, showing his support for the trail, which partially runs through his district. He rode with his son strapped in a toddler-seat. “What’s great about the new Miami is that we are repurposing urban space and making it public space for generations to come.”
Miami-Dade District 6 Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, whose district from Bird Road to Blue Lagoon overlaps the 75-acre corridor, pushed for continued public involvement in support of the trail, saying to attendees: “What is going to happen here is because of you. It’s because of your feedback to the needs of our community. We’re working with the Department of Transportation for more funding and we have the promise of recurring funds from the county to make sure that we finalize and make this a reality,” she said, before placing a final request to the audience: “The message that we have to send to my colleagues is that we don’t want any construction in residential areas, we want a complete trail.”
She told FECI: “We have to respect residential areas. We want a trail where people can ride bikes, where people can walk, where communities can come together.”
Currently, the Coral Gables Museum is hosting an exhibition called “Ludlam Trail: From Grassroots to Treetops,” created in part by Florida International University landscape architecture students, to help people understand the history of the site to what the corridor could become.
To find and join more activities during “Ludlam Days” events, visit http://ludlamtrail.org/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To join a local group bike ride, visit their partner organization: http://www.wheelsflorida.org.