By: Nelson Capote
Maintain Safe Access to West Matheson Hammock Park for Everyone!
Rarely does a large group of citizens beg the local authorities not to spend $5 million on a project, yet here is a petition doing exactly that. It concerns West Matheson Hammock Park, a lovely, unspoilt delight of nature that lies within the boundaries of Coral Gables.
Since the elections, the new Mayor of Miami-Dade, the new Commissioner of District 7 and the Director of Miami-Dade Parks Department have not responded to any of the questions and concerns sent to them regarding the ongoing project in the park. A formal request for information has been ignored and it has proved necessary to file a lawsuit just to see public documents relating to their planned changes to the park access. Communication has been limited to a notice board at the park entrance that is riddled with contradictions.
There are the many handicapped and elderly park visitors who currently drive safely into the park every day via the north gate. When the Parks Department’s project is complete they will instead have to walk two thirds of a mile on a shaded, elevated boardwalk without handrails and covered in wet leaves. Oh yeah, they will have to watch out for happy dogs and speeding bicycles too. The project is setting the general public up for years of life changing accidents and personal injury claims. It is an absolute mockery of the American Disabilities Act and their proposed mitigation of providing dawn until dusk golf cart taxi services, is that a joke?
The rare rockland hammock that the boardwalk will be built on is classified as Environmentally Endangered Land yet no Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out. Last year a Miami-Dade environmental specialist wrote an email about the damage that the Parks Department surveyors had caused to the rare plant life along the nature trail, and they were only wielding theodolites and tripods. If the heavy construction machinery is allowed to start work, that old Florida birding trail will never be the same again.
The Parks Department try to portray their project as a positive thing being done in the public’s interest. Unfortunately the only “public” that will benefit are the twelve Hammock Lakes families living on the public road leading to the park. The Hammock Lakes Home Owner’s Association seized on the opportunity of the pandemic and the resulting park closures to lobby the local commissioner and mayor, requesting that the access gate into the oldest park in Miami-Dade be kept closed. They would like to stop all non-resident cars from entering into their semi-gated community. Coral Gables has also kindly installed “no parking” signs on all the public swale around the entrance gate to keep those pesky park goers away. This despite a supposed Coral Gables moratorium on such signage since 2016, I guess it helps to be connected.
The petition proposes an equitable solution that allows the elderly and handicapped safe access to the park and completely eliminates the need for the environmentally damaging boardwalk. Please sign it so that this lovely park can be enjoyed by all and preserved, beautiful and unspoiled, for future generations.
Oh, one other thing. If you have any better ideas of what to do with the spare $5 million please let the Mayor of Miami-Dade know, they are in a hurry to spend it!