A visionary dream to build a bicycling and nature trail paralleling Tamiami Trail (US 41) from Miami to East Naples will take a vital step forward in Miami, Dec. 9.
That’s the date when Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department will provide details and displays to build a 75-mile “shared use” biking, walking and nature “River of Grass Greenway” from Krome Avenue to San Marco Road (County Road 92) in Collier County.
Under the supervision of senior park planner Mark Heinicke, the public is invited to view the project during a three-hour “Open House” from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Miami Center for Architecture and Design, 100 NW First St.
Two other “Open House” sessions are scheduled in Collier County: Dec. 10, 6-9 p.m., Council Chambers, Everglades City Hall, 102 Broadway East, Everglades City, and Dec. 11, 6- 9 p.m., Collier County South Regional Library, 8065 Lely Blvd. Both sessions are designed to enlist public interest and comment.
Exhibits will be set up with Project Team members available for questions and answers at both Miami and Everglades City sessions. Comment cards will be available to obtain feedback about the function and design of the pathway.
“The project has been in the works for several years, although probably not that well known in Miami-Dade as in Collier County,” Heinickesaid , not-ing he has worked with Collier County advocates to advance the project to planning stages.
The proposed path is envisioned as a hard-surfaced, 12-to-14 foot wide corridor, separated from the highway and suitable for a range of uses, such as bicycling, walking, bird-watching, and photography, all with wheelchair access.
The Trail would begin at the eastern edge of Everglades National Park near the intersection of Krome Avenue and SW Eighth Street in Miami-Dade to the western edges of Collier-Seminole State Park near 6-L Farm Road at the outskirts of Naples.
The vast majority of the corridor passes through public lands, including six national and state parks, preserves, forests, and wildlife refuges and would include spurs to nearby historic and cultural centers in Everglades City, Miccosukee Indian Village, Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Collier-Seminole State Park, and Picayune Strand State Forest.
Earmarked for an environmental design study and master plan, the $1 million grant to determine feasibility and develop a master plan is funded by the federal Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks (TRIP) program and managed by Miami- Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department.
While ardent Miami-Dade bikers generally are aware of the plan, the project originated by two preservation-minded Collier County women who provided the initial impetus to establish an environmental- conscious bike route for Everglades viewing between the two counties.
Patty Huff, editor of The Mullet Rapper (sic) in Everglades City, and Maureen Bonness, a Collier County botanist, were the prime movers, beginning in 2006 with the formation of a special committee within the Naples Pathways Coalition.
As Huff tells the story: “We have been working on the project now since its inception in 2006 when Maureen and I organized a committee to look at the feasibility of a pathway along the Tamiami Trail, allowing a safe experience for walkers, cyclists, fishermen and visitors to experience the Everglades safely at a slow pace, distanced away from the roadway itself.”
Both Huff and her husband, Steve, are veteran bikers who once set out from Everglades City to pedal 4,300 miles to Oregon, and have since biked over 25,000 miles through most U. S. states and many European countries.
“Riding our bicycles has provided us with the opportunity to learn about the culture, history and people who inhabit areas we bike through,” explained Huff, who sits on two preservation boards and the Friends of the Museum of the Everglades. “One of the reasons I became interested in finding an alternative way for visitors to travel through South Florida and learn about our unique and environmentally sensitive land.”
Bonness, who holds a PhD in botany, is a professional environmental consultant and has done surveys in the Everglades restoration project in the Picayune while managing a private environmental preservation area near the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
“Addressing the needs of citizens, local residents and businesses along the pathway, and governmental and tribal officials is crucial to the conceptualization and development of this unique greenway,” Heinicke said. “We want people to be fully informed and participate in the development of this unique addition to South Florida and the appreciation of the Everglades environment.”
For more information, visit www.evergladesROGG.com or contact “Friends of the River of Grass Greenway,” PO Box 5031, Everglades City, FL 34139; telephone 1-239-695-2397.