|Rendering of Miami Wilds: So compatible with Valuable Subtropical Farms, Endangered Rock Pinelands and the Everglades...NOT|
Get Ready for a Miami-Wilds Ride! Wasn't Orlando Enough for Florida??
Should I be surprised? No, but I am. The Board of County Commissioners has just taken the first step in funding Miami Wilds - the 21 Century Fox Theme Park that is about to invade Zoo Miami. Of course the allocation of bond money to relocate Coast Guard facilities was never heard by committee; it was put on as a last minute agenda item, and it passed. I am shocked, shocked! (Genius: this is Miami, I am never shocked).
In 2006, voters approved an amendment to Article 7 (then Article 6). That amendment protects county and most cities' parks from an excess of commercial development. From the beginning, Article 7 exempted large regional parks that by their nature would benefit from some commercial facilities such as restaurants. Metro Zoo (now Zoo Miami) was one of the exemptions. Visitors to zoos expect to be able to get some food and beverages, to buy gifts and rent bikes. All of these are compatible with going to a zoo. The amendment approved in 2006, however, involved land around the zoo. Here it is:
REFERENDUM ALLOWING FURTHER DEVELOPMENT AT
Provided that revenues will be used to expand Metrozoo facilities and educational and conservation programs, shall the County be allowed to contract to develop and operate an entertainment district, to include commercial uses and structures such as water park rides and attractions, related retail concessions, food and beverage establishments, a hotel, and a family entertainment center, on Metrozoo property on land that is not environmentally sensitive and is outside the animal attractions
The idea of additional facilities outside of the zoo proper did not seem like such a bad idea. A water park can be a real pleasure in the summer; a sit-down restaurant can be nice too, maybe a small hotel so people could make a weekend of it. It also looked like a way to provide more funding to the zoo. The Commission had previously approved plans for new development within the zoo - including the Aviary which had been destroyed by Hurricane Andrew; better, and some new, facilities for the animals; and much more landscaping. It was a very grand plan - and an expensive one. New facilities generate new costs and thus a need for additional revenue to support the zoo. That seemed reasonable.
Now, years later, after no water-park operators were interested, this apparently "good idea" has turned into a boondoggle. The County is getting prepared to give a long term lease for public land and a big chunk of bond money to 21th Century Fox to build a massive theme park! Check out the renderings.
Fantasy land!! Large rides, a grand hotel - and somewhere in there a water park. After all this is 21th Century Fox! Rupert Murdoch does not think small - he is marching forward with the entertainment section of his former news empire. In an email to Visitfla.com, a vacation planning site, Greg Lombardo, vice president of live and location based entertainment for 20th Century Fox Consumer Products, said: "With a strong international and domestic tourism market and a year-round climate, Miami is a great potential US location for a 20th Century Fox World theme park. We view this as a strong opportunity."
For them, a strong opportunity; for us, a train-wreck. I do not believe for a second that the plan will live up to the amendment's obligation to support educational and conservation programs. I do not believe for a minute that the plan will respect the provision that it not harm environmentally sensitive land. These are Pinelands and endangered species which, if not handled well, will be lost. I somehow just can't see a restaurant or hotel providing up-close (and very smoky) views of the pinelands when they undergo required controlled burns.
I have to admit that I did not oppose the referendum. In fact I argued for it. I feel very burned. There are still permits to be given and agreements to be passed, but this is the starting line. We need to be ready for a long and nasty race with this monster.
Also see article in Miami New Times
(Genius: 75% of Florida voted to buy endangered land for saving, look what Miami Dade County is doing with its MOST ENDANGERED LAND - building a Walmart and creating this spectacle. Orlando is enough for me. We should have a bus from Moss's district to Orlando. I would gladly contribute to it if his constituents want theme park fun. This isn't a money-maker for the residents.)