Who recalls the Miami Heat Arena/ Alex Penelas deal that was sold to the public on the premise and promise of a public park including a soccer field adjacent to the project? Apparently, no one.
The cynicism is boundless. County commissioner Pepe Diaz has ideas for public parks. They need to be for off-road vehicles to chew up open space and wetlands. What Diaz and his allies want is to plant more advocates for development in areas like the federally protected wilderness preserve between Miami and Naples. No joke.
At every step of the over development of Miami-Dade, county commissioners could have insisted that zoning changes fomented by private developers and lobbyists (ie. Greenberg Traurig) needed to include adequate space for parks. Never happened.
Public spaces can knit communities together. That ought to be a goal of policy makers, but there is no traction for common sense when too much money can be made by building subdivisions designed by cookie cutter, or lifeless rock mines, or highways into farmland. Call it Balkanization by design.
One of my first impressions of the state of Miami-Dade's parks: thirty years ago I was lost in Kendall, driving my son to a soccer game at a field I had never visited before. I stopped and asked the few pedestrians on the sidewalks if they knew where the soccer fields were. They all seemed startled by the question as deer in a headlight. Even though the soccer fields were within half a mile, none of them knew how to get there. If you can't find your local park, how are you going to find your sense of community? The answer, clear. You aren't.
Now we have "civic organizations" including board members from the Great Destroyers who nod to our national parks instead of standing up for parks and public spaces inside Miami Dade County. It's a shame, and an indicator.
It ought to be clear that a good parks system is an economic engine. Businesses want to invest where employees can easily access the outdoors. But we have taken our chief attractions and allowed private enterprise to wall them off. Instead of investing in parks, we glorify museums, performing arts centers, and sports stadiums. We allowed insiders like Jorge Perez (a former Miami city planner) to usurp access to the Miami River. Even much smaller cities like Providence RI understood the value of creating neighborhoods around parks, especially those connected to the waterfront. Not Miami. (Where was The Miami Herald, on these issues?)
Miami and Miami-Dade taxpayers are now boxed in by multi billion dollar infrastructure deficits (hidden by decision makers in order to promote low cost growth), that have the effect of sharply narrowing options to re-work the overdeveloped urban landscape.
On the other hand, the single most important step we could take to affirm our attractiveness to investors and economic generators would be to develop a new map and plan and moneys to ensure a 21st century park system for our region. Where is THAT economic development conversation, Beacon Council?
What we need, first, are new elected officials who can sweep away the old thinking of our unreformable majorities on the city and county commissions. Easier said, than done.