MIAMI (WSVN) – Plans for a water park near Zoo Miami have stalled again as Miami-Dade County leaders grapple with legal challenges and environmental concerns. Commissioner Kionne McGhee, sponsor of the Miami Wilds’ lease on the project, has requested a postponement of the final vote, further delaying the controversial development.
Background and legal challenges
The Miami Wilds project, first approved in 2020, has faced complications due to litigation and changes in county leadership. Conservation groups have raised concerns about the project’s impact on the Pine Rocklands forest and the area’s endangered population of Florida crested bats.
On Sept. 6, concerned conservationists voiced their opinions at a meeting where commissioners postponed the vote.
“You’re throwing away Miami’s history for the fleeting pleasure of a water slide,” said one opponent.
Another opponent said, “The surrounding land is home to both the largest pine rockland outside Everglades National Park and numerous endangered species.”
Recent legal challenges have added to the project’s uncertainty. While a lawsuit in state court was dismissed for lack of standing, a federal lawsuit has become more important.
The National Park Service has acknowledged flaws in the review process, potentially paving the way for a regulatory review to determine the project’s environmental impacts.
Commissioner’s request for delay
Commissioner McGhee has indicated that the county and federal governments need additional time to address these legal challenges. The revised lease for Miami Wilds provides a two-year window to obtain approval from the National Park Service or consider alternative locations.
Opponents argue that the water park could threaten Florida’s population of crested bats because they feed above the parking lots in front of Zoo Miami. But county attorneys contend the project is consistent with a 2006 referendum and allows development in non-environmentally sensitive areas outside the zoo.
“This is the largest population, the absolute largest population of crested bats in Florida that need this space anywhere else,” said a speaker at a Sept. 6 meeting.
The fate of the Miami Wilds water park remains uncertain pending legal decisions and further discussions between project developers and the county. Commissioner McGhee emphasized that the court’s decision will be critical to the future of the project.
“A postponement would give us the additional opportunity to further evaluate what actions can be taken to ensure we are implementing these important environmental protection measures,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Sept. 6.
A commissioners meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., but since Commissioner McGhee has requested that vote be postponed, it will likely be removed from Tuesday’s agenda.
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