Report Highlights Biscayne Bay Access Plan (FL)
MIAMI, 6/23/04 – Biscayne Bay, which has been open to all Miami-Dade County residents and visitors, is fast becoming a place available to only a few people, according to a report released today by the Trust for Public Land.
“At first glance, it may seem that access to Biscayne Bay is easy for Miami-Dade residents,” Condon said. “But a surprisingly low number of South Floridians are recreating and enjoying the Bay that characterizes our community. The Bay is generally available only to people who can afford either waterfront property or the increasing expense of owning and storing a boat.”
The report – Get Your Feet Wet…The Plan to Discover Biscayne Bay – is the result of a two-year planning process, which involved an advisory council of almost three dozen local civic, business, agency and community leaders, as well as public meetings, workshops, and research. Commissioned by the Florida Legislature and managed by the South Florida Water Management District, the plan highlights impediments to resident and visitor access to the Bay and recommends the necessary steps to increase access.
Amy Condon, director of TPL’s South Florida Office and author of the plan, said a series of actions over several decades has decreased public access to the Bay. Those actions include the neglect and gating of community parks, poor design of downtown waterfront areas, and a decrease in available public boat storage.
“The reasons are certainly not new,” said Ernie Martin, chair of the City of Miami’s Waterfront Advisory Board. “Nor are they unique to Miami-Dade County. Experts and concerned citizens have recognized these issues for decades, but only recently have we addressed the many aspects of waterfront planning and use. Although public access to Biscayne Bay remains a challenge, this report has very reasonable recommendations.”
The plan released today identifies policy recommendations and pilot projects to increase awareness and offer new opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the Bay. They include: ? Creating a shoreline walking and biking trail to provide an interconnected greenway along the waterfront. ? Developing a countywide “blueway” canoe and kayak paddling trail. ? Empowering a county-wide Biscayne Bay organization to sustain the effort to protect the Bay. ? Strengthening measures that safeguard physical access to the Bay and protect special Bay views, including consistent enforcement of laws and regulations. ? Protecting critical land and water areas for long-term public access, including buying key sites or using conservation easements to ensure continued access. ? Improving boating infrastructure so residents and visitors can get to the Bay more easily, affordably, and safely. ? Improving and integrating Bay-oriented communications, including publications, online resources, and other information sharing.
In 1999, the Florida Legislature established the Biscayne Bay Partnership Initiative, a community-based forum to survey public and private activities and programs affecting Biscayne Bay, and provide recommendations for actions to protect and enhance the Bay’s resources. Ecological health was made a special priority. “Biscayne Bay is greater Miami’s Central Park. This access plan is key to bringing together our diverse, multinational community around our most valuable natural asset,” says Jim Murley, chair of the Catanese Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University. Murley also is a member of TPL’s Florida Advisory Council, and served on the Bay Access Advisory Team responsible for developing the plan released today.
Among the overarching themes identified by the 1999 initiative was the importance of unlocking access to Biscayne Bay. That led to the state’s decision in 2001 to provide the funding for the Trust for Public Land to develop a strategic access plan.
“To develop the Biscayne Bay Strategic Access Plan required TPL to consider and analyze numerous essential Bay access elements that aren’t obviously related or interconnected, but in fact are,” said Trisha Stone, a biologist in the coastal division of the South Florida Water Management District and the contract manager for the access plan project. “TPL has worked tirelessly to combine these elements to create an access plan that can be used by the many Biscayne Bay stakeholders to improve access for everyone and provides them the challenge to do so!” The District is a member of the Biscayne Bay Regional Restoration Coordination Team, and considers the restoration of Biscayne Bay a vital part of the ecosystem restoration task force.
The group of about three dozen individuals on the access advisory team reflected a cross-section of interests – the environment, tourism and recreation, government, education, business, and planning and resource management. Together, they represented a wealth of knowledge and experience in fields with a direct bearing on Biscayne Bay and the issues shaping its future. They are also familiar with the previous research and recommendations about the Bay and took advantage of this valuable body of knowledge.
With the South Florida Regional Planning Council’s Institute for Community Collaboration and the advisory team, TPL conducted a series of meetings, workshops, brainstorming sessions and research activities, which formed the framework for a vision of the Bay’s future and a strong consensus about what needs to happen right away and in the future.
“I want to see as much public access to the bayfront set aside today, because tomorrow it will be too late,” says Nancy Lee, who represented Miami’s Stiltsville Trust on the advisory team. “As Martin Luther King said, ‘There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect.’ I would like us all to be remembered for our vigilance in retaining and providing public access to Biscayne Bay for future generations. Let that be our legacy.”
An 8-page executive summary of the full plan is available for download now at www.tpl.org/florida. For more information or to obtain a complete copy of the report, call the Miami Office at (305) 667-0409.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres of land in 45 states. In Florida, TPL has protected more than 290 sites as community parks, waterfronts, historic sites, greenways and trails. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information please contact us at (415) 495-4014 or visit us on the web at www.tpl.org