The following letter was written by Sam Van Leer in response to the Miami Herald story, “Bike-trail project a lot tougher than expected,” Miami Herald, Sept. 12, 2010.
The Virginia Key Master Plan approved by the City of Miami in July 2010 is based largely on the Consensus reached at the Virginia Key Coalition’s Charrette of September 2009. On Northpoint it protects the unique Nature Preserves and re-creates lost habitats inland, creating new opportunities for recreation within conservation. The very modest monetary investments are wise considering the stench that sometimes comes from the Sewage Treatment facility next door, and seasonal Mosquito and No-See-Um conditions.
A Public Beach is shared by people during the day, and nesting sea turtles at night. Multi-use paths may be enjoyed by all. North Ridge is planted with native vegetation selected to preserve the stunning views of the Bill Sadowski Wildlife Area, Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve and the City of Miami beyond. A large area is reserved for Mountain Biking. Picnic areas are along the Beach and the North Ridge. Walking paths allow people to explore the different Native Habitats found in coastal and inland areas. The campground is on high ground, with exposure to cooling and bug-abating breezes. Services are near the already-developed Sewage Treatment area.
Buffers between major human uses are absolutely essential to provide visitors with more personal experiences. Quiet nature hikers and wildlife won’t be startled by fast bikers. Campers can enjoy peace without intrusion. Mountain bikers can ride challenging paths free of walking explorers. Mountain Bikers were well represented at the Charrette’s Northpoint planning sessions, and were part of the consensus. The City Planning Department assures me that 30 yard buffers will be in all final plans.
Oleta River State Park is frequently mentioned as an example of great mountain bike trails, and it is true that they are fun to ride. What is less understood is that bikers built trails under Australian Pines, and expect that the big trees that shade their riding will be preserved. These Destructive Exotic trees actually kill Native Habitats, and the wildlife that depend on them. In addition, Oleta trails often wind so tightly that there is very little room for Native Habitat. The land use is so intense that it is a form of development, and is not an example to follow for Virginia Key. Fortunately, there are environmentally sensitive layouts that allow for shared use between bikers and nature.
The 2009 Charrette Plan should be followed, and Northpoint should never be used as a dumping ground again. How many public meetings must we attend to defend it? Listen to the will of the public, and please get on with it!
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