Given that unemployment in Miami-Dade is the highest in 80 years, and our visitor industry hurts like never before, it seemed like a long-sought-after attraction that would add more than 300 jobs would send you to paradise. The Miami Wilds could be just that. But you can’t tell from its cross-sections.
Since the committee last week recommended a lease for a water park next to the Miami Zoo for a full county commission vote in October, most of what we read about the park focused on the dangers to the Miami tiger beetle and the Florida bat with a hoof.
For decades, South Dade, devastated by Hurricane Andrew, has been looking for some kind of water-oriented attraction to help economic recovery. The effort failed. Then in 2006, voters approved leasing unused county land next to a zoo-oriented water-oriented attraction. The search for a developer has been going on ever since, spurred on by now outgoing Commissioner Dennis Moss.
The fact that the lease is finally on the table should be cause for rejoicing. Instead, environmental interests have become NIMBYs, people who say Not In My Back Yard.
Despite the fact that the entire development would be located in today’s paved zoo parking lot, environmentalists are outraged by the loss of valuable land for beetles, bats and other animal and plant species. The development, they say, would cost the native species valuable space and could lead them on a path to oblivion.
They are probably right. The more we develop, the less space there is for domestic animals and plants. The less space there is for animals and plants, the more dangerous their existence is. History tells of traveling pigeons that disappeared. Gone are the birds whose feathers were used to decorate hats. The foxes we saw in Brickell 20 years ago are not there now. The same is true with the Florida Panther, which was common in the Vizcaya area 100 years ago. The list of missing and missing is long.
We welcome conservationists like Audubon Tropical Society and others who speak on behalf of the plants, animals and land we should do and what they do treasure.
But balance that by speaking on behalf of the 14.2% of Miami-Dade workers who are unemployed – every seventh member of our workforce. Animals and plants have spokespersons, and residents and workers also need them.
Mankind has often been the enemy of the wild. Although the Miami Zoo has worked to create habitat for its Florida Bonneted Bat neighbor, it is generally wherever people appear and thrive in the wild and the environment. We pave roads, build homes, work in buildings, drive cars, fish, hunt – all to the detriment of the natural habitat. We are radically changing the balance of nature.
Nearly 2.8 million people now live in Miami-Dade, and tens of millions visit them annually. We cannot expect to preserve the natural environment that was here before humans arrived, or when Miami had 400 inhabitants 125 years ago, or when the county had a third as many people in the 1950s. For those who did not want any growth, that train left the station.
The question now is how 2.8 million people can live well. Part of a good life is ensuring we preserve as much of our environment as possible, but the other part is providing recreation and business, and a proper water park in South Dade can play a far more important role in our lives than an already paved but underused parking lot. bats and bugs.
That doesn’t mean trustees should automatically approve a lease with Miami Wilds. We have more questions.
For example, the agreement would turn free parking at the Miami Zoo into a $ 9 price tag, which could potentially grow annually with inflation. Is it good public policy? Commissioners should ask.
Taxpayers would also provide $ 13.5 million in tax bonds as an incentive. We would open the doors of a neighboring four-star hotel, next to a family hotel that requires a contract. We would pay millions for part of the cost of connecting the sewer. To save time, land valuation is based on 2012 and 2016 estimates, not current data: is it smart?
All this leads to one question: do taxpayers get a square deal? We expect the commissioners to examine this issue at least as carefully as the habitat of bats and beetles.
When presented with a large lease like this, the county government has been focusing on hot keys with hot keys for years. When they handed the commissioners a baseball stadium contract that cost taxpayers nearly $ 3 billion, they focused on whether they could get a job for voters in the district, not on whether the deal itself was smart. They never uttered the word billion in hours of debate.
We hope that the administration has checked this contract well. But we expect commissioners to ask difficult questions and seek answers based on facts, not just hopes.
In addition to ensuring that business achieves the best that taxpayers can achieve, the natural environment should also be explored – but trustees must also balance with concerns for nature, their actual concerns for the economy of this community, and benefits to their residents.
Does it serve us better by preserving 27.5 acres of under-paved paved parking next to the zoo or providing local amenities, tourist attractions and hundreds of jobs as we raise $ 120 million to maintain and expand the Miami Zoo? If the deal is firm, it would be bad to pass it.