OPINION: West Matheson Hammock Park

By: Patricia Cox

This park is on track to close from October to May during the worst pandemic in our history. Hammock Lake residents opposed drivers entering the park from the county road. Miami-Dade County wants to build a 1/3 mile wooden walkway to appease these voters. We go to this park every day along with many others: walkers, bike riders, birders, dog lovers and families. Why close during the best time of year to be outside? Why spend a fortune changing something that is natural and beautiful.


18 thoughts on “OPINION: West Matheson Hammock Park

  1. Funny that the gated community wasn’t gated just a few years back, and now the residents consider the public roads theirs and don’t want the free transit that the public are entitled for. That is the main and only reason for this back and fort among the HOA and the park users. Of course the residents are well known developers and have good relations with City officials, so the users have to get their cars and shoes dirty and walk half a mile to get to the park that the majority of those residents have never even set foot in it. The inconvenience of a few cars going in or out of the North gate is too much for them. So they pulled some strings and now Ms Nardi, Parks Director obliged, and is spending $5M USD on a boardwalk project that nobody asked for.

  2. I grew up in this park in the early 70s. I would come in with the lane lined by palm trees and ride my horse in the fields. This park has not changed since then. It is one of the few places where you can be with nature, undisturbed. It is a place of beauty and to be blocked by a wooden walkway that will rot in disrepair. Have they been on the trails to see how wet it is? I would bet the commissioners have never set foot in there. It is a discrace to let this happen. My family has been here since the 1800’s and to see one of the last remaining hammocks get destroyed makes me sick. Please stop this!

  3. Please do not ruin this park with wasteful and unnecessary “improvement”. Our inner city parks could use these millions of dollars instead to much better effect. This “improvement” seems like a thinly veiled excuse by the elite and their owned politicians to keep unwanted people from using existing public street access at our expense.

  4. Ah political lobbying, the power of money. Parks Department are following instructions and have dusted off a dormant old project that was largely rejected back in 2015 and are railroading it through double time, ignoring all opposition.

    They are paid to look after our parks yet don’t seem to care how much environmental damage they cause to this rare hardwood hammock. The Commissioners voted the project through without requiring any environmental assessment, the Parks Department started work without bothering to get the required permits for work in this extremely protected area, I find it unbelievable that we pay these people to be the custodians of our parks. I hope that a new political broom fires the lot of them.

    And $5.3 million wasted on something so stupid? That beautiful nature trail is always in the shade of the trees. The ridiculous raised wooden boardwalk that they want the handicapped and the elderly to share with dogs and bicycles will be covered in wet leaves and algae, I foresee years of personal injury lawsuits to come.

    Please, oh brave scientists of DERM, stand by your principles and stop this environmental vandalism, deny them a permit!

  5. I agree with everyone. Leave it alone as much as possible, build nothing that needs to be maintained or repaired in the future…

  6. Smart Feller says:
    October 9, 2020 at 3:55 pm
    It is interesting that the park entrance was originally planned to come off Red Road, thus, there is a line of Royal Palms planted along the lane which you can see from SW 56 Court.

    Those are some of the original palms planted by the Mathesons. Snapper Creek came afterwards for development. The simplicity of the park is what makes it a jem we all need to cherish and not let people stop our access.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/361028695278910 join us to keep our parks open!

  7. It is interesting that the park entrance was originally planned to come off Red Road, thus, there is a line of Royal Palms planted along the lane which you can see from SW 56 Court.

  8. There is no need for a boardwalk! Minimal upgrading of the parking lot and walkway that have the least environmental impact are preferable. There is no need to close the whole park for these ‘improvements’.
    Access to the many acres of park and all the rustic natural wooded trails should not be impacted. There is a perfectly good entrance at School House Road. This is a public road and there should be no question of closing it off to the public!

  9. I have been going to this park for 10+ years and personally love to walk in from Old Cutler. I love hiking and wish there were more trails and longer trails in Miami available for hiking. It is not the same experience to walk on a trail that is used by a few and is rough around the edges as to walk on a boardwalk that is frequently traveled by folks who just want to get through. The Everglades aside, Miami is lacking in nature that feels untouched. Why damage this special place? Why create a boardwalk, damage the wildlife there, and force folks to walk into the park when there is already a public road in?

    Most people who live in residential neighborhoods want less traffic on their streets, but we live in an urban area that relies heavily on cars. Traffic is a fact of life here. The park is public as are the streets in. I would be devastated to see this tiny piece of nature destroyed just so that a few homeowners who live between the gatehouse and park can have less traffic on their publicly-maintained streets. How did their desire for a private street get prioritized above everyone else’s wants and needs? Why spend all this money on a park “improvement” nobody wants when there are so many parks that would really benefit from the funds, and where the funds would really benefit the public?

  10. It does seem like a very silly time of the year to close this park, when the upcoming weather this time of the year (when closed) is the time that allows you to ENJOY the park. Who makes these decisions? This is a public park and a public road and should NOT be closed to citizens.

  11. The citizens saved this park from a six story high, six football length boat storage warehouse. The county and Coral Gables had already approved it when the citizens banded together to stop it. It was a very fine example of how public activism can change the course of projects pushed through by special interests and politicians beholden to those special interests. Leave our park alone! It is there for all to enjoy- rich or poor. And it helps our environment by being a green space that Coral Gables cannot pave over and build a 12 story hotel on.

  12. The HOA of Hammock Oaks has been lobbying the Mayor to keep the access road closed on School House Road during the pandemic. Now DERM is getting involved as the plans from parks show a 10 foot wide raised wooden walkway. The trail is 1/3 of a mile long and is presently about 6 feet wide. You cannot keep social distance on the path.

    The HOA has worked with the city to limit access for many years, first closing off the road exiting on Old Cutler and the guard gate. These are public roads accessing a public park, why does the commission keep letting this happen?

    Why is the City/County bending over backwards to accommodate this elite atmosphere and not allowing park patrons access?

  13. Matheson Hammock has been a necessary retreat for my family during the pandemic, and as mentioned, we are only looking forward to more time there as the weather improves. I also support rethinking the high maintenance boardwalk, but at the very least – please do not do the work until after winter season and only once things have returned to mostly normal. Do not take away access when so many in the community can benefit from enjoying its natural beauty during pandemic times and nice weather.

  14. This park is beloved by bird watchers. Nests of many revered birds are in the park. Closing would be detrimental to the bird watching community. Instead. why not encourage conservation of endangered palms to replenish the habitat so the birds can enjoy our ecosystem.

  15. Oligarch owners trying to close this wonderful unblemished park that all users respect? A handful of property owners complaining about park-usage which they knew of prior to purchasing in the area? We live in a democracy, not an oligarchy. We pay for the park with our taxes. Coral Gables and Miami Dade Commissioners need to stand up to this small self-serving group.

  16. Fear is a strong motivator.

    Residents are fearful of the public driving the public roads through their neighborhood, fearful of the impression people have of the neighborhood’s opulence, fearful that opportunists will compromise their security.

    What’s different about this neighborhood? What’s different about these public roads? The public pays for road maintenance. The public pays for park upkeep.

    Is it right for any residents to close off public access to a public park in order to stop public access along “their” roads? Where does this end? Which elite residents have the power to coerce public officials to change the rules to suit their fears? Which do not? It’s a slippery slope.

    This park is a hidden gem, long enjoyed by many that appreciate the beauty of nature — or what’s left of it after some many homes have been build on the perimeter. There is more at stake here than one set of neighbors imposing their will on the public. It’s a precedent that cannot be allowed to be established as a new standard for limiting public access to public roads.

  17. Why a high maintenance boardwalk that will eventually need to be repaired? Why not just improve/ grade the parking lot & walkway at the Old Cutler Rd. entrance? Do the work when attendance in the park is at its the lowest during the summer months.

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