It is a national day of remembrance set aside to honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. It is the unofficial start of summer. And, as many local residents know, Memorial Day is also an increasingly popular weekend for visitors to our city.
This year will be no different. The city will once again host Memorial Day services to commemorate the sacrifices of our courageous military personnel.
In addition, a large number of visitors are expected to once again come to Miami Beach for the holiday weekend, taking advantage of summertime weather.
To coordinate and manage the anticipated large influx of visitors, the City of Miami Beach diligently prepares a comprehensive and coordinated Major Events Plan (MEP) – similar to those done for other busy holiday weekends and major event periods, such as spring break, the Super Bowl, and Art Basel Miami Beach.
Development of this year’s Memorial Day weekend MEP began months ago.
“The plan ensures that the right resources are allocated to address the community’s quality of life needs and expectations,” explained Tourism and Cultural Development Director Max Sklar. “This involves coordination between many City departments, as well as organizations outside of the city. That begins well in advance of this weekend.”
One of the challenges in planning this MEP is the nature of the weekend. Unlike other MEPs where there are organized events, or even an event organizer, the City does not organize or promote any event, and does not authorize any special events on public property. Miami Beach has become a popular Memorial Day weekend destination through Internet blogs and Websites.
In order to plan appropriately, City staff relies on information it obtains from Websites, hotel occupancy estimates and other sources to prepare a strategy to address traffic, pedestrian flow, sanitation and public safety, among other things.
“There is nothing more important to us than ensuring the health and safety of our residents and visitors,” said City Manager Jorge M. Gonzalez. “Our geographical limitations mean that we have to be even more prepared to manage a busy weekend like this one.”
The MEP calls for enhanced staffing beginning the Thursday before Memorial Day, peaking on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and then scaling back on Monday. More frequent beach and street clean-up. Code officers will ensure compliance with quality of life laws, such as litter, noise and illegal vending. Parking staff will make sure that residential parking remains available and that other illegal parking does not occur. And, police personnel will keep traffic moving and everyone safe.
“There is a managed coordination of resources and information throughout the weekend,” continued Sklar. “We are flexible and staffing can be enhanced or scaled back, as needed.”
The City’s “management of traffic” (MOT) plan for this weekend is also an important part of the MEP. To facilitate the heavy volume of pedestrians on the popular Ocean Drive, the street will be closed to vehicular traffic from Fifth to 12 streets and 14 to 15 streets beginning at 7:00 a.m. on Friday, May 27, through 7:00 a.m. on Monday, May 30.
Access to east/west streets between Ocean Drive and Washington Avenue may also be restricted as some valet ramps will be relocated to these areas, although local residents with the proper zoned parking decals will be allowed to park. No parking will be allowed on either side of Collins Avenue from Seventh Street to Espanola Way, as the sidewalks are extended to the parking lanes.
“These efforts improve the safety of our visitors and residents,” said Police Chief Carlos Noriega. “After every MEP we meet and discuss what adjustments we should consider that will enhance the resident and visitor experience during the weekend.”
A park and ride system using the South Beach Local will be set up at the Miami Beach Convention Center lot at a flat rate of $15. And, as has been customary in previous years, there will be no charge to ride the South Beach Local from 6:00 p.m. Friday, May 27 through Monday, May 30.
A key component of the MEP also includes increased communications with the business, residential and tourism communities to share the City’s plan. In addition to community meetings, brochures have been produced and will be provided to visitors with important information and tips. Temporary signage and electronic message boards will provide information on traffic issues and tips on what to do, as well as what not to do, while in the city. The City’s radio station, MBRadio 1670AM will broadcast helpful traffic information for residents and visitors, and the City’s main information number will have a special menu with information ( 305.604.CITY).
A key component of the MEP is no doubt the deployment of over 200 Goodwill Ambassadors throughout the weekend. These trained civilian volunteers, all wearing easily identifiable T-shirts, will be on the streets passing out brochures that include a map with useful and important information and tips.
“Our Goodwill Ambassadors play an important role in not only providing information to visitors, but in identifying any emerging issues,” explained Noriega. “They are additional eyes and ears that help us make sure everything is ok.”
That information, as well as daily reports from the various departments involved in the MEP, is reviewed by the City administration’s executive staff who work the weekend monitoring the execution of the plan.
“We have implemented an MEP multiple times, and our process has become a model for other cities when managing these types of high-impact periods,” added Gonzalez. “We are prepared once again this Memorial Day to do whatever we can to reduce – to the extent possible – the impacts of this large number of visitors expected to come to our city. At the end of the day, our desire is for everyone to enjoy all the great things our city has to offer.”
FOR INFORMATION ON THE CITY’S MEMORIAL DAY REMEMBRANCE EVENTS, PLEASE VISIT WWW.MIAMIBEACHFL.GOV.