Boat Show plan will guarantee good experience for all

RICK-JOULE John Nelson

For the past 74 years, the Miami International Boat Show has been supporting thousands of local middle-class jobs, delivering massive economic benefits to our community and drawing hundreds of thousands of free-spending visitors to Miami-Dade County. For the past ten months, however, Village of Key Biscayne leaders have been fighting tooth and nail against the show’s move to the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin on Virginia Key — a move prompted by major renovation work at our longtime Miami Beach Convention Center home.

Key Biscayne’s leaders are fighting the show and its three-quarter century legacy in our community because of the possibility of being inconvenienced by traffic for a few days in February.

Key Biscayne’s elected officials have chosen to advance their cause by making misleading claims about the show’s potential environmental impact on the Marine Stadium Basin. In fact, Key Biscayne leaders have approved the expenditure of more than a half-million dollars of taxpayer money on lawsuits and negative PR to kill the Boat Show’s move. Sadly, they seem wholly unfazed by the fact that their crusade will put the jobs of countless working-class Miamians and local small businesses at risk. Likewise, Key Biscayne’s leaders are not letting the facts about the Boat Show’s environmental track record interfere with their claims.

The Village’s unsupported claims are in stark contrast to the Boat Show’s proven environmental track record. Over the past 30 years, the Miami International Boat Show has successfully hosted in-water displays at the Miami Beach Marina, Sea Isle Marina, Watson Island and Miamarina at Bayside. In each and every instance, we have worked collaboratively with federal, state and local regulators to comply with all relevant environmental rules. After all, it’s in everyone’s best interest — ours included — to respect the bay.

Our demonstrable, decades-long history of respecting the Biscayne Bay habitat continues with our move to the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin on Virginia Key. We are deploying temporary, 100-percent, EPA-compliant floating docks that will be removed following the show’s conclusion.

What’s more, a scientific study of the submerged basin floor conducted by Coastal Systems International determined that “the majority of the Project site was silty sand”. Key Biscayne claims that the Marine Stadium and Basin site is environmentally sensitive. This is incorrect: The only land on Virginia Key that has been dedicated as sensitive is on the opposite side of the island, far from where the Boat Show will take place.

Water taxis, which we are employing to mitigate traffic on the causeway to the direct benefit of Key Biscayne’s residents and visitors, will only use the clearly-marked navigation channels that legally permit vessels to move safely through nearby manatee protection zones. These are the very same channels that countless local boaters use every single week of the year, debunking Key Biscayne’s loaded assertion that the water taxis will encroach upon protected manatee zones.

Not surprisingly, Key Biscayne leaders’ claim that the five-day Boat Show will turn the Rickenbacker Causeway into a parking lot is also wrong. We have spent $800,000 on a comprehensive plan to maintain traffic flow for Key Biscayne residents and emergency vehicles. Offsite satellite parking locations, shuttle buses, dedicated lanes for local traffic and water taxis are all part of our plan. This approach doesn’t just help residents – the Boat Show can’t afford to have congestion, either. Our plan ensures that our attendees and exhibitors also have a seamless experience getting to and from the show.

Our hope is that Miami-Dade residents will see through the false claims being made by Key Biscayne’s leaders and see us for who we truly are: environmentally-conscious boating enthusiasts and good neighbors with a proven 74-year history of supporting local jobs, local businesses and a clean Biscayne Bay.

Cathy Rick-Joule is the director of the Miami International Boat Show.