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Monday, June 3, 2013



                         Sailboat Bay as seen from the Coconut Grove Sailing Club

    We had a meeting last Sunday night on Natoma Street (in the North Grove).  Marika de Nie Puyana and I hosted the event at her house inviting a few friends and neighbors.  36 people came to express their feelings about Coconut Grove's waterfront.  
   Our city commissioner, Marc Sarnoff and his chief of staff, Ron Nelson, joined in.   We heard good news and bad.  

    We started at Peacock Park and worked our way up the Coconut Grove coast.

There are now great opportunities in the Grove's central park. Its building, "the Glass House", has finally been vacated.  The bureaucrats are gone and it can now be something special for the Grove again.
    Architect Thorn Grafton was there representing The Friends of Peacock Park.  He went over a few of the ideas that were generated in a charette he ran ten years ago. They included a restaurant, gardens, a kid's fountain, and an ampitheater.

     Commissioner Sarnoff shared his plan. He told us he is going to put a small cafe on the east side (the space formerly occupied by the Grove's Chamber of Commerce).  If you know of any one who'd like to start a restaurant there, please get in touch with his aide, Ron Nelson.

     Marc was in a dour mood but this was understandable.  We asked him to come hear our complaints on a Sunday night.  
  It was nice of him to attend.
    The Commissioner let us know he was turning the west end of the Glass House in to a "community center".  I don't know what this will be but Marc envisions a supervised area for games for kids (ping pong, foosball, and so forth).  Of course, it could be so much more...classes for all ages, art shows, and place for meetings (like last night's). 

    In the area west of the Glass house they will be  putting in Astroturf (where the shuffleboard courts used to be). Marc told us it will be a "multi-use area". 
    Astro-turf?   When I was parking my car last night I noticed that a house's entire yard, cati-corner to Marika's, was covered with this plastic stuff.  It was rolled all the way out to the street like prickly carpeting.   I will only say, "it is a funny world".

    Back at the meeting Marika lamented, as did nearly everyone else, that we live on the water but we can't really see the water.  Over the years we have managed to block our beautiful views of Biscayne Bay.   I know of no other waterfront community that has done this quite so effectively.   We really know how to screw up a good thing.


     Mangrove trees were planted at the water's edge at Peacock, Meyers, and Kennedy Parks in the early 80's.  A city planner at the time told me, "I advised against it.  I let our commissioners know it was the stupidest thing they could do and they did it anyway".  It took years and years but the trees grew to block 95% of our bay views in these parks, on the Shake-a-Leg boardwalk, and on McFarlane Road.

      Mangroves are important, useful, trees but they should not be allowed to block bay views in public places.  You certainly can see the water from Bayfront, Wainwright and Matheson Hammock Parks. 
  I wish half of the mangrove trees blocking the bay in Grove parks would disappear today.  The remaining half could expand the fish population and the new views could expand our minds.

      Commissioner Sarnoff said at last night's meeting, 

"I know we need the views.  I spent 4 years and $100,000 trying to make this happen in Peacock Park.  We finally got permission to cut "windows" in the park's wall of mangrove's and we began trimming them back.  When the state officials said,

"Stop', we still could not see the bay. It was all for naught.  It was very frustrating".

 We thanked Marc and Ron for their efforts.

    After the meeting someone suggested that we give chainsaws and $50, to the homeless guys that hang out in Peacock, to open the views that the park lost. 
Not a bad idea.
   The earliest photographs of the place (in the 1890's) include unobstructed views of the bay.
    I took similar photos in the late 70's that made Peacock's shoreline look like Hawaii.  There's got to be a way to let us see the water again.

   Maybe we could introduce legislation in Tallahassee that would give's the Grove's parks a specific exemption from the rigid laws protecting Mangrove trees.

    Meyers Park, which is next to Peacock Park, was once well-known for its magnificent view of Sailboat Bay. That's been gone for ten years.  The Grove's former #1 eye candy is blocked by mangrove trees and a parking lot.  Again, our commissioner said he has tried unsuccessfully to correct this problem.


    Marc and Ron told us the Grove-based TV show that I once watched for five-minutes ("Burn Notice", I thought it was dumb) will finish filming in our convention center at the end of October. 
    The Burn crew should have been kicked out three years ago.  Marc chastised us for not supporting him more in this effort.  I hit the damn thing with a sledgehammer four years ago.  It did not fall but I did not get arrested either.

   On November 1, the 3-month demolition job should begin.  Commissioner Marc said it will be replaced with grass and landscaping.  When this happens our views will improve.  We'll see boats by the bay instead of the hulking hangers where Jim Morrison got busted for flashing his junk.

Let's hope the darn thing falls down on schedule.

     We found out we're getting a much-expanded, two-story dock master's office near the location of the present one (50-feet west)  Why one needs a McMansion to master the docks I know not why.  Maybe the master will live there and he/she has many children.

    City Hall stays the same.  Marc and Ron invited us repeatedly to go there to ask the questions that we asked last night.  Personally, I prefer Marika's yard, but its true, Ron is usually in City Hall ready to discuss anyone's ideas and problems.  Marc can be hard to locate.  The office copies of plans for the Grove's waterfront improvements, as well, to share.
Coffee is free.  

   One of the women in the audience said that she is with a group that meets on Wednesdays every month.  Her Implementation Committee works to find funding to implement the Grove's Sasaki Waterfront Master Plan, which was created seven years ago.  Its a good plan that hasn't gone anywhere.  She invited all of us to attend the meetings.  You can get details from Ron (City Hall).

      We discussed Scotty's Landing.  I guess things will change in the next year.  It wasn't clear if it will be a new version of Scotty's or someone else replacing his business.  The Grove's favorite waterfront cafe is one fast-flying political football.  I am perplexed as anyone by the game.

     Ron said, "Whoever ends up at Scotty's spot will be required to have both casual outside dining and white-table clothed dining inside".   Don't we already have that  with Scotty's and the Charthouse mausoleum next door?

   Marc added that the next version of Scotty's will fund the building of a multistory garage at the corner of Bayshore and the short road leading to City Hall (Pan American Drive).



     Shake-a-Leg isn't going anywhere.  Someone suggested that more people should try to use its services, that it's too much a "closed-club".  Another person said we should turn the big, white hanger there  - the one that we paid millions to renovate-  into something we all can use.  I agree.  It now holds little sailboats that are happy enough outside.

    Moving up the bay to Monty's. It's a big money-maker that Groveites don't like much.  Most of us go to Scotty's because it is like Monty's use to be.  I hope Marc and the rest of our city commission keeps this in mind.

     Next are the private yacht clubs.  The bike path passing by is quite dangerous with the yachting crowd zooming into and out of their parking lots.  Marc added that their "overflow parking" on or next to the path will be ending soon.

     Kennedy Park is changing.  Marc and Company replaced the asphalt bike path with a rubber one two years ago.  I guess "to put more bounce in our steps".  The two volleyball courts were expanded to three last month and most of the Australian Pines are now being cut down.  That is allowing a little more of the bay to be seen but the remaining mangroves blocking the bay view continue to be a problem.
    Labron, who lives on the bay three blocks north (who is working tonight,  leading the Heat to another big victory in game #109 of the playoffsas I write this) has nothing blocking his view.  Nothing.  The same can be said for the other 400 houses and condominiums on the Grove's six miles of bay front.  Strange stuff.

    We discussed parking at Kennedy Park.  Most want more of it and Marc said more spaces will be added in the next year.  Ron added, "If you go there for exercise, consider parking in Monty's lot, or in the public garage across the street.  The two block walk will do you good".

    Most of you have never been to Wainwright Park.  We discussed this scenic, mostly unused, park on the Grove's north end.

   Parking was reduced severely fifteen years ago by people who don't care about you.  Now there are only designated parking spots for 18 cars.  
  At the meeting we were told this is because the people living in this exclusive neighborhood are rich, influential, and they don't want people like us in their neighborhood.  It is where Madonna and Sly Stallone had their mansions. 
   Remember "Stallonegate"? When that sly movie star had a gate installed to block us from his neighborhood?  We raised hell.  It lasted a week.

     So the road to improving Coconut Grove's waterfront is indeed "rocky".   All jokes aside, it was good to be gathering last night to share concerns and ideas for improvement.  We will have more meetings.   If you were not with us last night maybe you can join us in the future to make Coconut Grove a better place.

Glenn Terry,
The Meeting's Scribe

   I am adding a few of the comments that I have received from this entry (Sorry,
it is so difficult to use my blog's comment feature)

-The one below is from Thorn Grafton who is mentioned above,

     At the meeting Wendy Kamilar advised everyone about the Coconut Grove Waterfront Master Plan Implementation Committee (CHWMPIC for short  ??).  They meet the 2d Wednesday each month in a staff room in City Hall, the day after the Waterfront Advisory Board meets. Since the Master Plan was approved by the Mayor and Commission, it would make sense for interested citizens to participate in the implementation phase.

   Another comment would be that we might want to look at Coconut Grove parks as a whole connected issue because none of the sites is sufficiently large to do everything we want and improvements are budgeted according to what is available somewhere in a Grove park.

   Finally I think we should work more closely with the business and development community on the issue of parks and recreational facilities. As we see from the leasing of the cafe space - the City appears unable to pay for these capital improvements from city funds.
   For instance: The RFP / lease for the cafe should include requirement for a nicely improved exterior environment on the waterfront side of the building. Also we should read the development RFP and responses on the waterfront parcels to see if improvements to community facilities such as the bay walk and visual access are adequately addressed. Even new development should be made aware of the deficit of community facilities so when they need bargaining chips with the City, we get something we need.

Encouraging meeting, glad to be a part.

Thorn Grafton, AIA, LEED AP

Zyscovich Architects

    Our Sierra Club friend, Blanca Mesa, responded thus,

 Glenn, its an interesting account. Regarding the mangroves, you are going to need them to hold together the waterfront when the seas rise. Actually they should replant mangroves along ALL all the coastline where private property owners cut it down over the years. To see the waterfront maybe everyone  should build viewing platforms like some  state parks do. Not kidding.  The Grove will  also need more open space to absorb water of Climate Change storm surges and sea level rise.

AstroTurf?  Are you serious?

And for God sakes, stop building parking garages, especially in coastal areas and barrier islands, like the ones Sarnoff proposes for Virginia Key's waterfront. They are ugly and they block views.
Invest in bike lanes and mass transit,  and shaded sidewalks instead.
That's what I would have said had I gone to your meeting.

WHAT WE NEED IS A SCULPTOR!   Suggestions from our friend, Helene...
Good report and thanks for getting the word out.
It seems to me that the issue of cutting the mangroves could be resolved with the help of someone like Bob Brennan,  a "tree man" and a Grove-ite witha good relationship with the city government.

Mangroves do serve a lot of very crucial, environmental purposes which we all need to be aware of.    If  it is "sight lines" that we need, very careful pruning by certified tree arborists might help resolve the problem and keep the "cover" for birds and other native critters.
The shore line should be left with a lot of mangrove prop roots remaining.   They protect the shoreline in storms.   The tops could be pruned back here and there, to allow people to see the Biscayne Bay.  The project would also require someone to do periodic trimming.
I hope this helps!


  1. I'm still a little taken aback at the apparent consensus that we have too many trees in Kennedy Park. The australian pines may not be indigenous, but they are part of the Grove's valuable tree canopy. Mangroves are more important as an ecological host than our vain desires for a view.

    How is it that the Grove is supporting cutting down trees? That's not the Grove I love.

  2. I agree with some of the other commenters here. I'm not sure if people realize how important mangroves are for coastal residents as the sea level continues to rise and hurricanes and storms become more unpredictable each year. I prefer the platform idea as someone mentioned as opposed to cutting down mangroves for a bay view. I would be lovely to run by a waterfront view but I honestly care more about my kids getting a neighborhood that won't be ravaged in a few decades. I would actually be upset enough to mobilize against the cuttings if that were to occur.

    And I don't mind walking to Kennedy Park from the Monty's parking lot. That's nothing. I don't want more parking encroaching on the park.

    Also--please please please--community center please. I have been driving all the way to Pinecrest community center so my kids can do cool things there. We also use Key Biscayne's amazing recreation/community center for regular weekly activities and summer camp and constantly wonder why we can't have a wonderful family friendly gathering space as such. And we could make it even funkier, artsy, and more eclectic than those other ones. I imagine drumming, rueda, African dance classes in addition to the more traditional community center offerings of karate, ballet, and knitting. I think it would be a wonderful way to bring our diverse community together.