Letters to the Editor

Create an urban gateway to Biscayne National Park

It’s disappointing that the city of Miami would sell itself short on Virginia Key by letting the Miami Boat Show essentially take over the island, including precious waterfront parkland, and allow the construction of a massive marina in the ecologically sensitive Miami Marine Stadium basin (Miami Commission approves key Boat Show agreements, May 28).

Virginia Key is a gift and should be treasured and preserved for future generations.

One way to do this would be for the city of Miami to partner with the National Park Service to create an urban gateway to Biscayne National Park on Virginia Key.

Under this scenario, the historic Marine Stadium could finally receive funding and achieve full restoration while the surrounding natural areas would receive ecologically sensitive stewardship.

With Crandon Park Nature Preserve and Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne, this would be a world-class national recreation area that combines both remote island wild lands, such as the Channel Islands National Park, with the easy accessibility to natural and historic sites provided by urban parks such as Santa Monica Mountains or Gateway National Recreation Areas in California.

Biscayne National Park’s expansion to Virginia Key with a visitor center at the Miami Marine Stadium would link the natural and historic heritage of the Miami region and help foster and fund the restoration and protection of important historic and cultural sites and facilities, such as the historic Virginia Key Beach Park, an 82-acre public park that played a critical role in the nation’s civil rights history.

This hybrid urban/wild national park property with tales to tell about the American experience — from civil rights, to restoring Florida’s fragile ecology to Miami’s modern architectural heritage — could be the new model for the National Park system, which is eager to reach out to an urban, diverse America.

After nearly a century of neglect, mismanagement and/or ill-conceived development plans, it’s time for the city to think bigger than just another commercial deal.

A final point — and perhaps the most important one — Miami should be considering the reality of climate change sea level rise and impacts to Virginia Key, which is already experiencing serious erosion.

A wiser investment of the $16 million the city is borrowing for its “flex-park” of asphalt and astro-turf would be to consult with experts on how to build a climate resilient shoreline incorporating native plantings and natural contouring of the sand dunes to protect this island from storm surge and further erosion as sea level rise accelerates.

The resulting landscape could be an example to the world of climate resilience and a living laboratory for an imperiled planet.

Blanca Mesa,

Friends of Virginia Key,