The Coconut Grove Waterfront and Spoil Islands Master Plan expands the park system and transforms it from a disjointed group of small, green spaces to a unified network that capitalizes on the waterfront location and affords multiple leisure and recreation opportunities (Figure 42). The Waterfront Park extends from Peacock Park to Pan Am Drive and contains a rich variety of landscapes including playfields, a baywalk promenade, fountains, and tropical and ecological gardens. Together these distinct and unique areas create a more cohesive and vibrant public space, one that celebrates the waterfront and its importance to the community. The Waterfront Park is equipped to accommodate a wide array of activities, from temporal events such as large-scale regattas or Shakespeare in the Park to daily activities including softball and boardwalk walks. This area is free of permanent buildings and allows the community to come together at the water’s edge.
Anchored by Peacock Park at its southern edge, the Waterfront Park maintains several of the existing uses while providing enhanced facilities. The tennis courts in front of St. Stephen’s are refurbished and brought up to date. A tot lot and nearby skateboard park provide locals and visitors with activity areas for kids of many ages. An actively used playfield, the softball field is maintained and reskinned while still keeping ample room for Shakespeare in the Park performances. The McFarlane Road Pier establishes a direct physical and visual link from Center Grove to the water, and with special pavements and areas for native plantings, will provide a much stronger axis than is currently in place.
Mangroves at the water’s edge are allowed to flourish but will be carefully pruned to allow for better pedestrian and visual access to the Bay. The important ecological habitat that the Mangroves provide is strengthened by the relocation of the CGSC facilities. The removal of this building will create unimpeded views from McFarlane to the Bay and strengthen the visual connection to Center Grove. Additional native plantings between the shore and the central park path restore the now hard-paved areas to a more ecological, natural state. These ecological gardens will not only highlight the beauty of the native vegetation but also will help enhance habitat for bird and waterfront species, all the while affording great educational opportunities to visitors. Small piers and decked paths within the ecological gardens area give residents and visitors alike quiet viewing platforms from which to take in views of Sailboat Bay and nearby Spoil Islands, including one at the Mary Street park entrance.
The park entrance at 27th Avenue (Figure 48) is intended to celebrate Coconut Grove’s connection to the water by providing panoramic views of the park and the marina. The demolition of the Expo Center will allow Grove residents to be visually reconnected to the marina. Though the existing asphalt of Myers Park is planned for removal, the current use of the boat ramp will remain for regatta events. With contemporary pavements and a new 27th Avenue Pier, Regatta Plaza is envisioned as a grand plaza, with ample room for festival tents in the off-season. Controlled trailer access from Bayshore Drive to the boat ramp will be provided in large events via the Mary Street Plaza. In quieter times, the plaza will allow for sweeping views of Sailboat Bay. Just east of the pier, a large lawn amphitheater provides an area for everything from kite-flying to regatta lay-down space to outdoor waterfront performances. Encircled by shade trees and tropical plantings the northern edge of the park will be transformed from what is now the Expo Center to an area with lush plantings and cooling shade. In keeping with the City’s emphasis on sustainable initiatives, these and all plantings will be designed to minimize water and maintenance resources. A path running along the east-west axis of the park and mirroring the nearby historic hangar alignment, connects Mary Street Plaza and Regatta Plaza to the Cultural and City Hall Plazas. With rows of palm trees on either side, the path frames views towards City Hall and the Charter Pier, and provide clear pedestrian access to all the major waterfront components.
At the northernmost edge of the study area, Kennedy Park (Figure 52) is maintained as a passive recreation park with enhanced boardwalks that allow the public more access to the waterfront. The dog park is relocated closer to South Bayshore Drive to allow families to gather and picnic within sight of the Bay. An expanded network of boardwalks along the shoreline will provide visitors a way to take in the rich flora and fauna of the Mangrove eco-system. The existing parking lot will be re-engineered and repaved to alleviate drainage issues and to create a more pleasing entry to the park.
The network of diverse park spaces from Peacock Park to Kennedy Park are linked together by a system of paths and trails, which trace the water’s edge, delineate spaces for different activities, and create a connection along South Bayshore Drive. The Commodore Trail connects the waterfront parks to Center Grove, meandering from the Grove’s commercial district through the park system, connecting it to the Civic Core, and eventually to Kennedy Park along a new dedicated path. Center Grove is further linked to the pedestrian system by a generous sidewalk along McFarlane Road and Peacock Park that turns into McFarlane Plaza as it approaches the water.
Rehabilitation of the Spoil Islands landscape and ecosystem is integral to the master planning goals, but was accomplished through a simultaneous project initiated by DERM. The Islands recently supported
a high density of non-native invasive plant species, such as Australian Pine and Brazilian Pepper and their shorelines captured a high volume of human debris. The strategy for the Islands embodied a plan that cleaned out invasive species, and provides a suitable habitat for native mangroves and tropical hardwood hammock species. The plan also calls for stabilization of the seaward shorelines with riprap. With a restored habitat, the Spoils Islands can retain their status as natural amenities for the Miami area. New water taxi connections from the heart of the waterfront park provide an improved connection to the Islands for pedestrians without boats. In addition inner and outer mooring fields are being formally established by the State and a breakwater is proposed to protect the investment in the Coconut Grove waterfront.