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August 14th, 2014

Beach Park storage: residents cry foul

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esidents are upset that the Key Biscayne Beach Park has been “cut in half” to store heavy equipment, but Village officials say they were left with no other choice: the machinery is necessary to clean local beaches, and the land-strapped community offered no other options.
Building, Zoning and Planning Director Jud Kurlancheek added officials do continue to seek alternatives: “I’d still like to find a better long-term solution,” he said. “We’re working toward that objective.”
Resident Whitney MacEachern told The Islander News her family noticed the situation last week when they returned the Key after being away for several weeks.
“The kids are devastated that their local park has been cut in half. My husband is horrified that our community’s efforts at preserving the dunes and sea turtle nesting habitats have been destroyed. I am flabbergasted that beachfront, prime public property is being used to store a bulldozer,” she said. “There was a group gathered in front of the ugly chain-link fence last night, and some of us had tears.”
As it turns out, the Village is hardly thrilled about the situation either – but Kurlancheek said there was no other option.
He said the administration searched for a year and a half for a spot to store two beach cleaning tractors, an ATV and a sand sifter. The equipment was previously stored at the Oceana construction site, Kurlancheek explained, but with the new condo now completed, “We had to find another location.”
The Key Biscayne Beach Club and local condominiums didn’t work out, he said, and Village staff looked at options away from the beach before determining they wouldn’t provide sufficient access.
“The only place where we have direct access to the beach is at the Beach Park,” he said. “There were no other Village-owned properties available.
“It’s not where we want to put this equipment, but it is the only place we have.”
Kurlancheek said the Village tried to shield the equipment from view as much as possible: along with the black vinyl chain-link fence that secures the vehicles, he said, 10-foot-high foliage hides it from view.
“It’s completely obscured,” he said. “We tried to make the best out of a very difficult situation.”
He added benches and tables that were removed to make way for the equipment will be replaced in other locations this week or next.
MacEachern, however, said residents remain upset – not just about the loss of beloved park space, but that it seems like the action was taken on the sly.
“After many months (years?) of discussion about a dog park location, this gross misuse of public park space appears to have been done surreptitiously and without public notice or community input,” she said. “I know some residents were calling for a ‘Crandon Park’ quality beach. Well, perhaps there is less seaweed, but now there is half the beachfront park space, dunes have been destroyed and the view from anyone using the beach access or Beach Club resembles an industrial park.”
Several residents also called The Islander News asking why the equipment was being stored at the park.

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