Proposed skateboard park and kitesurfing safety subject of heated discussion at Village Council meeting

Sports was a hot topic during Tuesday night’s Key Biscayne Village Council meeting, stirring emotions for residents and council members alike as the discussion moved from a skateboard park proposal to the dangers of kitesurfing for swimmers and sun-tanners.

Youth Council member Santiago Dillon provided ideas for a skatepark -- not only to remove the stigma some may have with those athletes, but also to build a closer-knit community for youths and adults, and give youngsters another outlet.

Key Biscayne Skatepark

“People talk negatively (about skateboarders) and that makes us want to improve our image,” said Dillon, who collected 1,500 signatures in support of his plan. There is a petition on Change.org with more than 1,500 signatures in support of his proposal. To see or sign Dillon's petition, click here

Dillon referred to a popular quote attributed to the sport in inner cities: “If your community doesn’t have a skatepark, your community becomes the skatepark.”

Dillon’s plan would be to provide skaters with a central location, away from residences, sidewalks and the Village Green area, which can all be unsafe. His proposal calls for a variety of flat or sloped rails and steps, not the large bowls or mini-ramps. And, he’s been in touch with a Miami company, “Skate Free,” that helps build skateparks.

Skateboarding, which reached a pinnacle in the Tony Hawk days, remains popular. This year, it is being introduced as a temporary sport in the Tokyo Olympics.

As far as ideas of where to place a skatepark on Key Biscayne, Dillon believes the 530 Crandon area (near the Community Center) or the 571 or 599 areas of Harbor Drive Park “would be a great place to do youth community-building events.”

The skatepark plan, ironically, came just one night after a Special Council Meeting took place regarding how the island can do a better job policing juvenile misbehavior.

While council members agreed the skatepark idea was worth looking into, Luis Lauredo took strong exception to the 530 Crandon site: “After we just spent 18 years” - to finalize a new plan - “and now you want to change it?”

Lauredo got into a heated discussion with Vice Mayor Ed London before Mayor Mike Davey had to step in and calm things.

Tuesday night, coincidentally, was the first time the seven members of council had shared the dais in the Village Chambers after more than a year of Covid-19 precautions had kept some at home using Zoom.

Council member Ignacio Segurola said he would be in favor of finding an area for the skatepark that perhaps would entertain the Key Biscayne flavor.

In other news from the meeting:

Kitesurfing dangers: Several residents showed their concern about aggressive and inexperienced kite-surfers speeding up and down the beach near swimmers (closer than the established 300-foot mark) between Oceana and Key Colony.

Resident Monica Deane said she knows kite-surfers can go 40 mph, but some now are adding a foil to compensate for low wind. “It’s almost impossible to walk on the beach from one end to the other without tripping over those strings,” she said.

Resident Julio Diaz asked the Council to reconsider allowing kitesurfing on the beach. “It’s dangerous for people on shore,” he said. And, he’s noticed the number of inexperienced surfers, where “the kite controls them, instead of them controlling the kite.”

Lauredo went as far to say, “It’s a tragedy waiting to happen. ... I can guarantee there is a problem ... I’m ready to shut it down.”

But proponents of the sport fired back, saying all kite-surfers are certified and know the rules.

Karen Beber, a 25-year Island resident, said, “There has never been a kitesurfing accident, not one, on our beaches. Safety is at the top of our minds always.”

She, like others from the Key Biscayne Watersports Association, realizes there might be, on occasion, a “dangerous” kite-surfer, “but there also are dangerous drivers, so you wouldn’t close the roads, would you?” she asked.

The consensus was to perhaps find a better location to kite-surfers, and to advise the public to be aware of kitesurfing in the immediate area.

Council member Allison McCormick said, “It was sad to hear it’s breaking down. It sounds like rules are not being followed like we set them.”

Mayor Davey, like fellow Council member Frank Caplan, was dismayed. “It took so long to get that one spot (to kite-surf),” he said. “We have to address this so everyone can live in harmony.”

Council member Brett Moss suggested kite-surfers should be the first ones to call the police if they see a dangerous situation, “because they’re going to ruin it (for you).”

The next step is to have new Village Manager Steve Williamson go over plans with his staff and submit ideas at the June 15 council meeting. He will do the same with the skatepark idea.

New library plans: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado and Miami-Dade Public Library System Director Ray Baker presented conceptual designs for either a one-story or two-story modern-looking library that would replace a building which has been in existence 36 years.

Proposed new Library

“We don’t want your money,” said Regalado, regarding the county-funded project that still must receive approval from neighboring Key Colony residents and clear litigation involving deed-restriction land.

The one-story concept would be about 9,000 square feet, while the two-story plan calls for 17,000 square feet -- more than twice the size of the existing library -- with at least three community rooms upstairs and outdoor reading areas facing Crandon Boulevard.

Masks or no masks: Village Manager Williamson is encouraging facial coverings and social distancing on village properties until further notice. There will, however, be no penalties if one does not wear a mask.

“We want to get back to normal, but we have a responsibility to do it in a deliberate manner,” said Williamson, who has learned that 70 to 75 percent of village residents have been vaccinated. “We will do this in phases ... in the best interest of our community.”

By June 15, he hopes to have a plan in place on what to do on July 1, when the second part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ relaxed masks plan goes into effect, preempting existing coronavirus measures enacted by local governments.

Oh, those golf carts: Council member Segurola led a discussion about possibly removing all golf carts from traveling on Crandon Boulevard, and fellow council member Caplan asked if speed could be reduced on that stretch of road. Segurola also will have a further discussion with Police Chief Press to make sure the local golf cart ordinances comply with those of the state.

Safety on Crandon: Williamson will begin the process of implementing the Crandon Boulevard Pedestrian Safety Master Plan. Council member Moss said, “We brought up kitesurfing and safety, but I believe the biggest threat is vehicles and pedestrians. There have been too many close calls. In time, something is going to happen.”

1
0
0
0
0

Recommended for you