MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – On Old Cutler Road in south Miami-Dade County, one of those familiar blue and white county signs brags about the bike path project under construction along the landmark roadway.
The project is bordered along several stretches through Palmetto Bay by a black, plastic fence that county public works spokesman Delfin Molins said is intended to defend sensitive mangrove areas and the protected Deering Estate property from “construction debris and runoff.”
But the environmental barrier is literally full of holes. It is falling down in many places, has wide gaps at the bottom separating it from the ground in spots, and is gaping open at intervals.
“It’s our money, and we don’t like to see it wasted,” said Palmetto Bay Village Councilman Howard Tendrich, who is a devoted environmentalist and can’t understand what the dilapidated environmental barrier is protecting.
“It’s not touching the ground, and by not doing that it’s not serving its purpose,” Tendrich told CBS4’s Gary Nelson Tuesday. “If you’re going to try to protect it, you should protect it to its fullest.”
The plastic barrier, that resembles an unrolled trash bag, stands about three feet high in the places where it’s not falling down.
It drew comments of derision from some passing taxpayers, like Dan Lyons of Cutler Bay.
“It’s just more money wasted, I think.” Lyons said.
Councilman Tendrich is also concerned that the county has erected what it says will be a permanent chain-link fence along a stretch of the path bordering Deering Estate to guard against pedestrians or bicyclists veering off into a steep incline.
Tendrich said he understands the need for a safety buffer of some sort, but said the “ugly” chain-link fence is “totally out of character” with the historic, sensitive Deering property. He suggested a split-rail wood fence or something similar would be more appropriate.
The county’s Molins told CBS4 News that if Palmetto Bay or others “want to build a different fence” they may, but the county will not replace the chain-link version that’s there.
Tendrich worries, too, for the safety of people who currently have to leave the pathway and go out into Old Cutler Road along a 100-foot stretch of the path that has been blocked for weeks by barriers around a culvert that is being installed.
Tendrich thinks a temporary bridge of some sort should be erected over the culvert area to keep pedestrians and bicyclists from having to detour into a moving lane of traffic.
As for the decrepit, plastic environmental barrier, the county’s project manager, Frank Mendoza, told CBS4 News Monday afternoon that it is “not intended to prevent runoff,” but rather to keep construction equipment from encroaching into the sensitive land adjoining the bike path project.
Mendoza’s comments conflicted with the earlier statements of the department’s spokesman, Molins.
Palmetto Bay’s Tendrich said he hopes to meet with county public works officials this Friday to go over and hopefully resolve some of his concerns with the bike path project.
As of deadline for this report, the public works department had not replied to specific questions posed by CBS4 News including: the total cost of the project; the cost of the seemingly ineffectual plastic environmental barrier; and concerns regarding the barricades that force walkers and bikers out into the roadway.