Miami commission breaks up Virginia Key Beach Park trust, site’s future up in the air

MIAMI –Virginia Key Beach’s future remains uncertain after Miami commissioners voted to remove the board of directors responsible for overseeing improvements.

Miami Mayor Frances Suarez refused to veto the takeover, but former board members and community leaders aren’t giving up easily.

Virginia Key was historically dedicated to the only beach for black people. The commission wants to do something with the space, but the community says not so fast.

It was a packed house Wednesday night at the New Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City, where community born and raised residents spoke of frustrations at what they said was the mismanagement of Virginia Key Beach.

“There’s a much bigger story that needs to be told,” said Gene Tinnie, who was part of the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust. Established in 2000, the council’s goal was to update the Virginia Key both ecologically and historically. The council quickly made the park a historic site and they wanted to build a museum.

But last July, the commission proposed that a homeless camp be put on hold. This idea did not bode well for many residents of the black community, and the park trust shut down the idea.

Pastor Dr. Steven Caldwell said the beach should remain a historic site.

“The African-American community has very few pieces of its history in South Florida,” he said.

Now, two months later, the commission has dismantled the trust. They said the city conducted an audit which found the trust had poor accounting and failed to properly document expenditures.

Board members say that is wrong.

“To say the least, it was a shock,” Tinnie said.

While the future of the beach hangs in the balance, the community says it will continue to fight to be involved in those decisions.

“The overriding focus is to hold what we have been commissioned to hold as part of our history for our community,” Caldwell said.

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