Stop the Matheson Hammock Park land grab

Grant Miller, Publisher

Grant Miller, Publisher

Matheson Hammock Park’s 630 acres comprise one of the few remaining open spaces in the county that offer easy access and largely unspoiled natural habitat.

Miami-Dade County is planning an update and upgrade for this jewel of a park, which dates to 1930. The county’s stated goals are to protect and enhance the park’s natural and historical resources, anticipate sea level rise, and increase overall accessibility. That’s commendable.

But, this being Miami, a handful of wealthy homeowners are pushing a plan essentially to annex and privatize the western part of Matheson Hammock. If successful, the homeowners in Hammock Lakes would have a signature public park mostly to themselves.

This west area of Matheson Hammock usually is referred to as either “the Matheson nursery” or as “the dog park.” The county has used a portion as a nursery for decades. Generations of dog owners — and hikers, bikers, bird watchers and picnickers — have enjoyed the park’s fields and wooded trails.

Therein lies the problem with the residents of Hammock Lakes, where teardowns start at $4 million and many homes top $12 million. They don’t want outsiders using School House Road off Kendall Drive to access West Matheson Park, which is in the City of Coral Gables but is owned and operated by the county.

Never mind that the park’s access road is a public street. Never mind that all vehicles must stop at a private guardhouse with a real guard and video cameras. Never mind there usually is at least one Coral Gables police cruiser nearby — and the fact that this public park predates this neighborhood.

These homeowners want the county to keep out all vehicles from driving past their homes, by closing the north and west entrances accessed via the public road and private guardhouse. All vehicles would have to park along Old Cutler Road. That’s a burden for park visitors from the north who would have to endure more of trafficchoked Old Cutler, and then fight over parking.

Worse, everyone must then hike a third of a mile along a wooded trail. What about the elderly, physically challenged? They will have to tough it out — or stay home. Also, it’s a birdwatching trail, and dogs and birds don’t go together. Most galling, we taxpayers would pay to install landscape “buffers” for the lucky homeowners abutting the park. Talk about hitting the jackpot.

The county has two basic options for West Matheson — do a minimal facelift, or a complete makeover. Most current park visitors prefer a minimalist approach.

If you insist on a full gussy-up, then make West Matheson more like the eastern portion by installing picnic shelters and bathrooms. While you are at it, put in baseball and soccer/football fields, like Tropical Park. Easily 10 soccer fields, two baseball fields, one lacrosse field and two volleyball courts. There would still be room for dogs.

In no event, however, should we deny direct vehicle access to West Matheson. In no event should we close the north and west entrances.

We need to tell Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez to state clearly and unequivocally that they oppose this land grab and will keep West Matheson accessible by vehicles.

Mayor Gimenez’s staff is responsible for drafting the proposals. Commissioner Suarez will be the point person for approving or denying those plans when they come to a vote at the county.

Contact Mayor Gimenez at <> or 305- 375-5071; Commissioner Suarez at <> or 305- 375-5680.

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8 Comments on "Stop the Matheson Hammock Park land grab"

  1. Thanks so much for the article !! it is a ver clear description of the situation. As a dog owner I hope we can keep it the way it is now. Something that is not mentioned but that would be worth mentioning: he park is home to milkweed plants, the only nesting and food source of Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. Hey are endangered as the milkweeds are being plucked out for landscaping varieties. We need to keep those plants as we need to provide food for the migrating butterflies to reproduce.

  2. Long Time Hammock Laker | December 24, 2015 at 12:19 am | Reply

    I have lived in this neighborhood for over 30 years and there hasn’t been access to the park from School House for decades. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the “NO PUBLIC ACCESS” sign that is posted at the gate…

  3. Carl Rachelson | December 24, 2015 at 7:49 am | Reply

    I have heard that the real intention of the developers and their land grab is to build an Eastern outpost of Santa’s Enchanted Forest, but I have been sworn to secrecy on this. In any case, I would prefer that any undeveloped land remain entirely undeveloped — no rides, no ball fields, not walking paths. Leave it alone.

  4. Miami-dade county needs more parks with more access to all. We CAN NOT ALLOW THIS TO BE ANNEXED IN ANY WAY!

    • This is a PUBLIC PARK. Why should a few elitist, selfish people be allowed to dictate the public’s access to this park? People with such high expectations of privacy need to go to an island and not try to hamper the general public’s right to the complete enjoyment of a public park supported by the publicly paid tax dollars of the people. No annexation!!!

  5. Time to Build on it | December 28, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Reply

    That old tract is nothing more than waisted unutilized land, something we can not afford to have, costing us citizins money sitting there empty. It would be better utlized and create jobs jobs jobs by building high density affordable housing in there. We need the construction jobs it would create. Thsi is a much needed potential tax revenue source and the economic benifits to Construction Industry are more important than some birds or butterflies ANd there would be less places creating disease riddled misquitoes and rapid racoons

  6. Grant, the way you articulate things is beyond belief. I’ve been reading your columns and all have been superb. I remember when you were friends with one or more of my boys!


  7. Thanks for publishing this article and making us aware of the issue. I frequently use Matheson Hammock park, including the western “Dog Park,” as part of a jogging trail. This area west of Old Cutler is one of the few remaining undeveloped gems in a mostly developed area. As a community, we should do our best to preserve the park for all residents of Miami-Dade County to use.

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