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Could your Miami-Dade neighborhood’s open space help curb flooding? Put it on this list

A staff member of Miami Waterkeeper talks to a community member about the new green infrastructure project, where neighbors can nominate eligible spaces in their community for potential nature-based upgrades.
Miami Waterkeeper
/
Via Miami Herald
A staff member of Miami Waterkeeper talks to a community member about the new green infrastructure project, where neighbors can nominate eligible spaces in their community for potential nature-based upgrades.

It only takes a couple of inches of rain to turn Biscayne Gardens Park, a pocket of green space tucked into the small northeast Miami-Dade neighborhood, into a lake.

The wide open grass patch and sidewalks disappear under floodwater, and all that sticks out are the handful of trees, including the knobby knees of a few bald cypresses.

Maria Perilli, a board member of the Biscayne Gardens Civic Association, said complaints about the park come up at every meeting.

“People don’t even consider this a park,” she said. “Everyone looks at it just as a place that floods.”

But Perilli has a vision for what this park could be: a space that embraces its role as a flood-prone spot for the neighborhood, soaking up even more floodwater on wet days but also remaining a space for neighbors on dry days. That could look like extra absorbent landscaping, elevated boardwalks or even a cistern underneath the park to store even more excess water.

“I would like this park to be an example of how water can be worked with rather than seen as a nuisance,” she said.

That’s why Perilli nominated her neighborhood park for a new project from Miami Waterkeeper, one of nearly a dozen such spaces already suggested by Miami-Dade residents.

The new project is funded by a nearly $700,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Waterkeeper project’s aim is to add more nature to the interior of the county, turning underutilized parks, empty lots of other spaces into “green infrastructure” that addresses flooding and extreme heat with plants and water features. They’re looking for both public spaces, like parks, as well as private spaces, like empty lots, which grant money could also help purchase.

“We are seeking residents to nominate areas in their neighborhood that are prime for revitalization,” said Amanda Prieto, the senior program director for Miami Waterkeeper and lead on this project. “The goal is to have a range of both types and scale of projects, from as small as a rain garden to as large as a living street.”

At least a dozen potential green infrastructure spots have been nominated in Miami-Dade County for Miami Waterkeeper’s new grant-funded project.
Waterkeeper Miami
/
Via Miami Herald
At least a dozen potential green infrastructure spots have been nominated in Miami-Dade County for Miami Waterkeeper’s new grant-funded project.

Prieto and her team created an interactive map that residents can use to suggest spots or vote for others, and they’ve promoted it at multiple city and community meetings across the county for the last few weeks. Early next year, the team will pick six to eight of the best ideas and fund their design.

Building them will require buy-in from local governments, or even grants, but Waterkeeper has pledged to help with at least the first part of the expense, the design.

“We can take care of the design process so you have more money for implementation,” she said.

Waterkeeper started this project, funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, to help increase the number of nature-based solutions in the inland parts of the county. Nature-based solutions are often more affordable than stormwater pumps or pipes, and they’re more visually appealing to neighbors. They also have additional benefits, like creating additional habitat for wildlife or even cleaning some of the floodwater they absorb.

“It can have a dual purpose. It can look good and also improve their quality of life,” Prieto said. “We want recreational spaces that have multiple purposes.”

This story was produced in partnership with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a multi-newsroom initiative founded by the Miami Herald, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post, the Orlando Sentinel, WLRN Public Media and the Tampa Bay Times.

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