Editorials

Mangrove massacre

VILLAGE CONCERNS: Mayra P. Lindsay, mayor of Key Biscayne, stands in an area along the shoreline where protected mangrove trees had been cut down without a permit, next to the Marine Stadium, to clear the way for the Miami International Boat Show on Virginia Key.
VILLAGE CONCERNS: Mayra P. Lindsay, mayor of Key Biscayne, stands in an area along the shoreline where protected mangrove trees had been cut down without a permit, next to the Marine Stadium, to clear the way for the Miami International Boat Show on Virginia Key. EL NUEVO HERALD

The cost of moving the Miami International Boat Show to the Marine Stadium site on Virginia Key continues to mount.

First, the city of Miami appears to have reached a deal with boat-show promoters circumventing the required public approval of usage of such prized city-owned waterfront property.

With no community input, the city opened its arms to the boat show in February. Sponsors were seeking a new location while their usual locale, the Miami Beach Convention Center, undergoes renovations.

In anticipation, the city is spending $16 million on the dormant, long-neglected stadium grounds. The National Marine Manufacturers Association, which hosts the show, has given the city $3 million for electrical upgrades and spent another $3 million on temporary docks.

Already, Key Biscayne residents are up in arms about the event’s move into environmentally sensitive Virginia Key — and, mainly, the lack of a commitment from the city that this is a one-time deal. They are suspicious of the city’s future plans for the site where it wants to develop an $18 million “flex park” — that’s a public park that doubles as event space. Such plans would forever affect traffic and the environment on or near the island enclave, Village of Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Lindsay told the Herald Editorial Board.

“The city will not give us assurances of what their future plans for the flex-park will be,” Mayor Lindsay said. Understandable concerns for residents of an island with only one way in, and one way out.

The city has said that the village has no legal standing or say in deciding how the site should be developed — and that is true. However, traffic that backs up on the island has a direct and deleterious effect on that in the city, so Miami officials can’t altogether dismiss such concerns.

And now, there’s visible, tangible evidence of damage to the environment. As city workers cleared 300 feet of shoreline without a permit, it seems they carelessly chopped down red and black mangroves, which provide valuable protection from erosion and shelter for wildlife. There are also concerns that pilings in the water to build temporary docks in the stadium’s aquatic basin could harm a sensitive underwater ecosystem.

The mangrove massacre is proof to boat-show critics that the event, which attracts 100,000 people and 1,500 boats, and the fragile marine life and seagrasses at the Marine Stadium site can’t co-exist. The city must do a far better job of ensuring that they can.

Restoring precious mangroves is not easy. The county is now drafting a restoration plan for some 2,000-square feet of canopy destroyed.

To stop the show, which must also obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mayor Lindsay and the village leaders have filed a lawsuit and gone into mediation with the city in the hopes of getting the boat show moved to another location.

Though Miami is moving forward with its boat-show plans, commissioners have expressed concern that the whole affair has grown larger than it first let on. These elected officials need to push harder for answers. The city they run has developed a disturbing pattern of withholding information from the public on projects that will have a serious impact on their quality of life. That’s been the case with the long-delayed Flagstone project on Watson Island. The boat-show deal should not be a repeat of that failure of public stewardship.

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