By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – The vice mayor of Miami Beach opened a new section of the Miami Beach Atlantic Greenway between 3rd and 5th Streets. Joy Malakoff, alongside city commissioners, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, March 1st to commemorate the reaching halfway point of their ongoing beachwalk project.
Since 2007, the city has been working with the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization to build a path for pedestrians to walk or bike all seven miles of the beach front. From North Beach to South Beach, the goal is to connect the beaches to business districts to residential neighborhoods and beyond.
Miami Beach is home to about 90,000 residents but during the peak of tourist season, millions of visitors from worldwide flock to Ocean Drive. In effort to combat congestion, the city commissioned the Atlantic Greenway Network. The AGN facilitates the development of multi-modal transportation routes throughout the city.
The walkway is being constructed along the west side of the coastal dunes and east of the oceanfront properties, much to the dismay of local residents and environmentalists. Both groups raised concern about the importance of sand dunes providing a barrier from hurricane storm surge for seaside buildings. Sand dunes also shield those who reside along the beach from rising sea levels and the dangers of climate change.
In response to local push back, city officials requested permission from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. In a report, state regulators determined that the construction would not cause “significant adverse impacts” to upland properties or the beach itself. The FDEP approved the permit request but required Miami Beach to act in accordance with coastal construction regulations.
The permit stipulated that during construction, the city had to remove invasive plants and restore any native plants affected by the building. Additionally, the pathway must use turtle-friendly lighting that meet Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s requirements. Artificial lightning is known to disorient sea turtles.
The Mid-Beach Recreational Corridor, from 46th to 53rd streets, is estimated to be completed in May. 24th to 45th street is the next section slotted for boardwalk replacement scheduled to begin this summer. The final phase of the project, 79th to 87th street in North Beach, is anticipated to start at the end of this year and expected to complete in 2021.