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Review of the Miami-Dade County Parks and Open Space System Master Plan 2009/12/09

Posted by dbarg in Environmental Planning.
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By Dave Barg

The Miami-Dade County Parks and Open Space System Master Plan was completed by Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin, a multi-disciplinary planning firm, in 2008. This effort was the result of a much-needed update to the current plan which was enacted back in 1969. Building the plan entailed an intensive 18-month process of thorough analyses and charrettes, involving a variety of municipalities and agencies. I feel the plan is highly effective in addressing a multitude of issues encountered in the urban setting. The theme of livability is a critical aspect of the plan, as Miami-Dade County’s population is expected to exceed 3 million by 2025. The intent of the plan is to guide the growth of the county while addressing key themes of unification, connectivity, and sustainability, among others.

The unification theme focuses on a physical vision that will be carried throughout the parks, creating comprehensiveness and minimizing fragmentation among varying spaces. The comprehensive nature of the plan is vital toward addressing the objective to improve quality of life for the entire county through the parks and open space system. Connectivity aims to create seamless linkages between spaces while promoting accessibility to all residents, regardless of racial or social status. This brings about the equity component, providing an equal opportunity to enjoy these spaces for all segments of society. By sustainability, the planners are referring to environmental, social, and economic sustainability. The plan makes provisions for environmental sustainability through the use of sustainable materials, energy efficient facilities, and operational procedures, while also emphasizing the importance of conservation efforts to protect areas from over-use and degradation. Social and economic sustainability are encouraged through collaboration with businesses and social groups.

The multi-disciplinary nature of the Miami-Dade County Parks and Open Space System Master Plan is a key component to the comprehensiveness of the document. The range of issues addressed by the parks and open spaces plan afforded the planners a competitive advantage over competing planning firms. The comprehensiveness allows for widespread, pervasive benefits as opposed to isolated benefits. One integral aspect of the plan that I feel separates it from other similar plans is the educational component. Commonly, education is not of critical concern in plans of this size and nature. The planners ensured that plan elements could be understood by all members of society. For example, the sustainability aspects are not only intended to implement environmentally-sensitive solutions, but to provide a model to communities for the ways in which they can contribute to a more sustainable culture.

The comprehensive and regional themes of the plan result in a system that is identifiable all throughout the county. In addition, the parks and open spaces are intended to be aesthetically-pleasing while complementing the surrounding environment. These elements build community pride and help to unify members of the county, promoting community stewardship of the parks and open spaces. Other important elements of the plan include local art, redeveloped streetscapes, walking and biking trails. Overall, the Miami-Dade County Parks and Open Space System Master Plan is extremely well-rounded, while contributing to a high level of social integration, recreation, and sustainability culture.

In terms of the structure of the plan, I found the plan to be very well organized and effective at providing a context for each issue addressed. Explanations are accurate and succinct, supported by a plethora of visual diagrams throughout the document. The graphical representations in the plan are clearly displayed, informative, and aesthetically-appealing. They catch the attention of readers and are appropriate in subject nature to the context at hand. Another significant element of the plan is that it does more than simply provide a list of themes, but instead includes methodologies that decision-makers can utilize to achieve objectives in the plan. The implementation component is imperative in creating effective plans.

I have only one criticism of this plan which I feel would improve the fluidity when reading the document. While reading the plan, I encountered a certain level of redundancy in the restatement of key themes. Although, it is understood that the multiple references to key themes highlight the importance of these themes, the redundancy was somewhat excessive, in my view. This did not take away from the effectiveness of the plan, but was noticeable and could be distracting for some individuals. Aside from that one criticism, I am truly impressed with the key themes and comprehensiveness of the plan. If implemented pursuant to the specifications outlined in the plan, I believe Miami-Dade County will have one of the premier parks and open space systems in the world.

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