Wednesday, January 26, 2022

An important environmental post worth repeating: What’s So Special about a 22 Acre Forest on Old Cutler Road, by Eduardo Varona, Guest Post (originally published October 18, 2018)

Is the environmental spirit dead with current elected officials? Why are they willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future to "beautify" the median running within US1 (costs that they gladly assumed from FDOT), but not protect environmentally sensitive land? 

Various plans have been proposed. I proposed working with the Miami-Dade Environmentally Endangered Lands Program (EEL) several times. In fact, I worked to get these 22 acres placed on the "B" List for acquisition, but it requires that Palmetto Bay participate.  That would remove any threat of development both on that land or any transferrable rights being applied to adjoining land.  This land has been used as a political football for far too long and I am anxious to see a realistic plan to save this precious land. 

I rely upon experts. The 22 acres of the Palmetto Bay Village Center should be saved. Please see this guest post from 10/18/2018: What’s so special about a 22 acre forest on Old Cutler Rd? 

This forest is very special indeed. It is one of the last remaining remnants of the tropical rockland forest ecosystem that covered Miami-Dade County before we bulldozed 98% of it. Yes there is roughly only 2% left of this forest ecosystem left in all of South Florida. Most of this ecosystem existed almost exclusively in South Miami-Dade. And day by day we lose additional acreage to development and neglect.

Specifically, the 22 acres of the PBVC is a tropical rockland forest composed of rockland hammock and pine rockland. These two forest communities exist on the oolitic limestone ground in a fluid equilibrium with each other as the land can transition back and forth between the two distinct plant communities in a natural and controlled process influenced by fire, hydrology, and by man. The species diversity both plant and animal that this 22 acre forest harbors cannot be measured in dollars. It should not ever be measured in dollars. In fact some years ago, the 22 acres was nominated for inclusion into the County's Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) acquisition program. County biologists assessed the site in response and documented the important habitat values. As a result, the Board of County Commissioners added this site to the list of lands that EEL should purchase for management and protection. The land has remained on the list ever since awaiting funding for purchase.

Here is the complete guest post, originally published on October 18, 2018:

Thursday, October 18, 2018

What’s So Special about a 22 Acre Forest on Old Cutler Road, by Eduardo Varona, Guest Post

Many have questioned over the last decade what is the importance of 22 acres of privately owned native forest on the east side of Old Cutler Rd just north of SW 184 St in Palmetto Bay. Some have claimed and said it is a protected forest. The private owner at times has wanted to develop it and at times seems to want to protect it. Politicians have even fallen on their own swords actually proposing to develop it. At times part of the forest was even looked at for a fire station to serve the surrounding neighborhoods. 

In the last four years there has been a serious push to finally give steadfast lasting protections to this forest through a deal between the Village of Palmetto Bay and the private owner, the Palmetto Bay Village Center (PBVC). This agreement would involve a transfer of developmental rights from the 22 acres east to the parcels surrounding the PBVC. And Palmetto Bay would receive the 22 acre forest as the newest passive park in the “Village of Parks”.

So this begs the question, do the 22 acres of forest need protection? Is this privately owned forest currently protected from development now and in the future?

The answer to the second question is a very certain NO. The 22 acres have never been designated a Natural Forest Community (NFC) by the County and therefore are not protected whatsoever under County laws. To have been designated an NFC the private owner could have approached the county and asked for an ecological and biological assessment of the site. This has never happened. Had it happened, due to the relatively well maintained condition of the forest it would most likely have been designated an NFC. However, even if it had been designated an NFC it would only have protected a percentage of it from development, not all of it. 

What about a covenant that allegedly exists or existed that allegedly protects the forest. Well, depending on who you ask and on which side of the bed they woke, there is a covenant of sorts that is enforced by the Village. A covenant that the Village agrees is soon scheduled to expire.

But in actuality that covenant doesn’t protect the forest at all. It only protects the homes across from the forest along Old Cutler Rd by maintaining a “visual buffer” so that those homes can’t see the PBVC building. That is the extent of the covenant which is due to expire in 2019, if you ask the experts. Finally, is there interest by the private owner to develop the forest? Well why wouldn’t there be as it is prime real estate right on old Cutler Rd. If not protected, someday it will be developed.

Now let’s go back to the original question, the title of this writing. What’s so special about a 22 acre forest on Old Cutler Rd? This forest is very special indeed.  It is one of the last remaining remnants of the tropical rockland forest ecosystem that covered Miami-Dade County before we bulldozed 98% of it. Yes there is roughly only 2% left of this forest ecosystem left in all of South Florida. Most of this ecosystem existed almost exclusively in South Miami-Dade. And day by day we lose additional acreage to development and neglect. 

Specifically, the 22 acres of the PBVC is a tropical rockland forest composed of rockland hammock and pine rockland. These two forest communities exist on the oolitic limestone ground in a fluid equilibrium with each other as the land can transition back and forth between the two distinct plant communities in a natural and controlled process influenced by fire, hydrology, and by man. The species diversity both plant and animal that this 22 acre forest harbors cannot be measured in dollars. It should not ever be measured in dollars. In fact some years ago, the 22 acres was nominated for inclusion into the County's Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) acquisition program.  County biologists assessed the site in response and documented the important habitat values.  As a result, the Board of County Commissioners added this site to the list of lands that EEL should purchase for management and protection.  The land has remained on the list ever since awaiting funding for purchase.

Roughly half of the 22 acre forest is pine rockland with the rest consisting of an oak hammock also containing trees such as mastic and gumbo limbo. Yet it is a little known fact that pine rockland is a worldwide endangered ecosystem and plant community which only occurs in Cuba, Bahamas, and yes, Miami-Dade County, and only in South Dade. 

There is more that makes this 22 acre forest more unique than other similar parcels in South Dade. This forest is one of the last remnants of a vast coastal forest that existed in a long ecotone where the forest met the South Dade coastal wetlands and then beyond that Biscayne Bay. And there is even more that makes it so special. 


Few understand that all throughout the Miami coastal ridge where now lie the municipalities of Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, and Pinecrest there existed transverse glades, also known as finger glades. These transverse glades, traversed the coastal ridge as creeks and fresh water wetlands that in the wet season flowed with fresh water from the Everglades all the way to Biscayne Bay. One very large transverse glade occurred in the area known as Bel Aire in Cutler bay and it ran northeast into Palmetto Bay emptying most of its fresh water into Biscayne Bay at the Deering Estate.  This same transverse glade, now a canal, at one time also fed this 22 acre forest and the coastal wetlands abutting it with a seasonal seepage of subterranean ground water through the porous limestone underfoot. In fact an unusual tree species for this location so close to the coast still lives on the edge of these 22 acres at the spot where it once met the coastal wetlands. The Swamp Bay, a tree in the Avocado family, mainly occurs in the Everglades tree islands and in transverse glades. And that a specimen of this tree still grows on the edge of the 22 acre forest is evidence of the strong Everglades fresh water connection that once existed at the site.

So to come full circle, the 22 acres is significant in of itself as one of the last remnants of a vast tropical rockland coastal forest that once existed but is now mostly gone. However, the last piece of the intricate story is that this 22 acre forest lies right beside the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands (BBCW) restoration project which is an integral component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). This large scale CERP restoration project is planned to restore many thousands of acres of coastal wetlands and the near-shore adjacent portions of Biscayne Bay.  With the exception of what has already been restored at the Deering Estate, the most northerly component of this large project is the 130 acre restoration parcel purchased by the Water Management District just to the south of the 22 acre forest.  This makes the forest and its protection an effort worthy of local, county, state, national, and international significance.

This precious 22 acre forest if preserved will support and enhance BBCW and the Village of Parks far into the future.

Swamp bay trees that are proof of the connection of this forest to fresh water wetlands.


Friday, January 21, 2022

Marvin Lee Aday - known as Meatloaf - passed away at age 74.

See: TODAY, online, Rock legend and 'Bat Out of Hell' hitmaker Meat Loaf dies at 74, By Drew Weisholtz,1/21/2022

The singer recorded classic such as “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” and “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”

As my tribute - here is the video we all watched at the Grove Cinema prior to The Rocky Horror Picture show:

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Miami-Dade County will hold the Joint meeting with Palmetto Bay today, Thursday, January 20, 2022, at 12:45 PM. There is a public comment section listed on the agenda.

 Today is a big day in regard to the 87th Avenue bridge issue. The Palmetto Bay Council and Board of County Commissioners will meet in a joint meeting today, Thursday, January 20, 2022. at 12:45 PM

The agenda does include "reasonable opportunity for the public to be heard" (Public Comment). (CLICK HERE) to view the official agenda.

4A JOINT STATEMENT OF THE ISSUES
 

4A  

  220108 Joint Meeting/Workshop  

  ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE JOINT STATEMENT OF THE ISSUES (ATTACHED TO THIS AGENDA) RELATED TO THE CONFLICT RESOLUTION PROCEEDINGS INITIATED BY THE VILLAGE OF PALMETTO BAY AGAINST MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PURSUANT TO VILLAGE RESOLUTION NO. 2021-18  

5A REASONABLE OPPORTUNITY FOR THE PUBLIC TO BE HEARD
 

6 DISCUSSION AND CONSIDERATION BY THE VILLAGE COUNCIL AND THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS  

6A  

  220105 Discussion Item  

  CONSIDERATION OF THE JOINT STATEMENT OF THE ISSUES BY THE VILLAGE COUNCIL AND THE BOARD  

6B  

  220106 Discussion Item  

  DISCUSSION OF ANY RESOLUTION OF THE DISPUTE  

6C  

  220107 Discussion Item  

  CONSIDERATION BY THE VILLAGE COUNCIL AND THE BOARD OF ANY PROPOSED MOTIONS FOR A CONCEPTUAL RESOLUTION OF THE CONFLICT RESOLUTION PROCEEDINGS, OR IF NO CONCEPTUAL RESOLUTION IS REACHED, THE GOVERNING BODIES ARE REQUIRED TO SCHEDULE MEDIATION TO BE CONDUCTED BY THEIR REPRESENTATIVES TO CONTINUE TO SEEK RESOLUTION OF THE CONFLICT  

7A ADJOURNMENT

Monday, January 17, 2022

Celebrating the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. Monday, Jan 17, 2022

Monday, January 17, is the day we celebrate the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King in 2022.

President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation creating a federal holiday to honor King in 1983 . The holiday, first commemorated in 1986, is celebrated on the third Monday in January, close to the civil rights leader’s January 15 birthday.

Dr. Martin Luther King was a leader about principles, not populism and doing things that are RIGHT, not because they are politically expedient.

I have posted a link to watch a posting on YouTube of the "I Have A Dream Speech" of August 28, 1963. Please take the time to view this important and inspiring historical statement:


 
For more information, check out 10 Things You May Not Know About Martin Luther King Jr., on History.com by Christopher Klein. This online article was originally posted on April 4, 2013. It was updated January 15, 2020.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

Friday, January 14, 2022

Monday, December 27, 2021

Pondering what I will do in 2022. I know what I don't want to do!

"I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that."

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas - 2021 - remembering the Christmas Truce in WWI - read History dot com account

Christmas Time - a time for a little truce and ponder the true meaning of Christmas.

One of my favorite Christmas events still remembered - Christmas in wartime - leading to the brief respite that came to be know as the Christmas truce. 

Read the full account on History.com: Christmas Truce of 1914
On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire, but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.
At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.
Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s land between the lines.
The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.
Info above taken verbatim from History.Com
Photo: “1914 Christmas Truce Monument, Messine.”

Friday, December 24, 2021

Where is Santa now? NORAD tracks Santa - 2021 - this is for the young & young at heart - links to tracker and the story as to how it all began.

  NORAD Tracks Santa A recommended site.


Click on this link to Welcome to NORAD Tracks Santa to view where Santa is at the time.  

Or follow Santa on Google's Santa Tracker by CLICKING HERE 

Always a family favorite, at least until the kids age out.

Enjoy, 

Merry Christmas

Eugene Flinn and family

How it started: One of my favorite Christmas stories: A great read - NPR (originally published December 19, 2014)

Read the full NPR story as related by the grown children of Col. Harry Shoup who came to be known as the "Santa Colonel." Col. Shoup passed away in 2009.

The Earthrise photo. Taken 53 years ago today, 12/24/1968

Smile, you're being photographed (53 years ago). Two of my strongest non-family related Christmas time memories:

Apollo 8, we all monitored that mission (all space missions at that time) - we later saw the Earthrise photo taken  53 years ago this date, 12/24/1968.  This photo provides perspective; that we live on a small self-contained outpost.

The other, and certainly less important memory was back in 1971, when the Miami Dolphins were relevant, and played in the Christmas Day playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The double-overtime game remains the longest game ever played in NFL history.

The Dolphins were led by coach Don Shula, and six players – Nick Buoniconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Larry Little, and Paul Warfield. 


I prefer the space memories, looking up as if I could actually see something with my own eyes, if I could only focus on the exact spot near the moon. 

One of the many gifts that space exploration/NASA has provided to us.

Read the article (it remains available online), Miami Herald: The stunning photo on Christmas Eve that changed how we see our planet, by Christian Davenport The Washington Post

Thursday, December 23, 2021

2021 Year in review - photos - 02 - road cycling. Spoiler alert - 4,000 mile reached once again

I enjoy road cycling. I can roll out of my driveway and have reached as far as Hollywood Beach, Florida. No need to drive to a starting point. It is easy to cycle when we live in one of the best places to cycle year around. The pandemic dramatically increased the popularity of cycling. This year saw yet another increase in the activity as it can be done socially distanced as well as outside. 

But for me, there were no big trips this year - no cycling in central Florida or upstate NY,

The 2021 B-day mileage ride
I did once again meet my annual goal of cycling 4,000 miles For comparison, my drive / mass transit work commute for 2021 was approximately 6,000 miles.  The annual mileage included the annual "ride my age (in miles) ride" as well as at least one (ok, maybe 2) metric century rides (62.5 miles).

Remember Rule #1 listed in the movie Zombieland: Cardio. I am fortunate to maintain my health - and I credit long term gym and spin class for my health, though since the pandemic, my activities are nearly exclusively outdoor cycling. Published studies have shown that cycling at a moderate pace for an hour allows overweight people with diabetes to halve their blood sugar levels in the next 24 hours. Even cycling faster for only half an hour can reduce levels for an entire day, but only by 19%.

Other health benefits include strengthening your heart muscles, lowering one's resting pulse and reducing blood fat levels. Research also shows that people who cycle to work have two to three times less exposure to pollution than commuting via car; improving lung function.

But let's  be clear - bicycling alone is not magic, like any exercise, a certain level of exertion is required for maximum health benefits.

And let's not leave out the social aspects - not the mad pelotons, but friends who ride together - fun times.

One such ride was the 12-22-21 "Holiday Lights, City Ride" where the group explored the local holiday light displays:


So on to the photos for 2021:


Above left - Coral Gables branch library. Above right - The Sahara, Collins Ave, Sunny Isles Beach, FL

Above left - Hollywood Beach. Above right - Rickenbacker bridge

Above left - Virginia Key. Above right - Black Point Marina.


Above 3: More fun with friends


The 2021 year is nearly finished. I am looking forward to the 2022 rides.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

2021 Year in review - photos - 01 - gravel biking.

I am kicking off the year in review with some photos of the 2021 gravel biking adventures - a great socially distanced activity (no drafting). The pictures tell the story. No cycling travels this year, it was all local - south of Black Point, east Everglades, parts in and near Everglades National Park, in and around Shark Valley and the Tamiami canal / Levee areas.











I am looking forward to the gravel riding adventures in 2022!