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White Sand Black BeachCivil Rights, Public Space, and Miami's Virginia Key$
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Gregory W. Bush

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813062648

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813062648.001.0001

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Forging Our Civil Right to Public Space, 1999–2015

Forging Our Civil Right to Public Space, 1999–2015

(p.202) 7 Forging Our Civil Right to Public Space, 1999–2015
White Sand Black Beach

Gregory W. Bush

University Press of Florida

This chapter details the struggle to retain Virginia Key Beach Park from 1999, when the city administration attempted to waive deed restrictions in order to commercialize the property. Environmentalists, including the author, called for retention of the park and brought the civil rights history of the area into the conversation, involving a number of African American leaders and the use of oral history testimony to rally a larger political constituency. Demanding a public process, creating a public design workshop, and exhibiting persistence and media strategies before various city bodies, activists were successful in retaining and enhancing the possibilities of the park by 2000. Then another challenge emerged in the administration of Mayor Manny Diaz, who attempted to manipulate a master plan process to further commercialize the entire island, but activists were able to engage the public in an alternative process and the master plan that the City Commission finally approved in 2010 was a short-term triumph for the public planning process. After the housing recession hit in 2008, however, the substantial staff of the park was decimated by budget cuts and at the time of publication the park remains in precarious financial and political shape.

Keywords:   Virginia Key Beach Park, Civil rights history, Oral history, Public planning process

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