Protest against boat show planned at Marine Stadium

Miami Marine Stadium (credit: Rick Bravo)
Miami Marine Stadium (credit: Rick Bravo)

The village of Key Biscayne is getting reinforcements for its war to stop the Miami International Boat Show from being held at Virginia Key’s Marine Stadium site.

On Saturday, environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Tropical Audubon Society, Biscayne Bay Coalition, and the Urban Environmental League of Greater Miami will join village officials in leading a protest at Marine Stadium.

Laura Reynolds, executive director for Tropical Audubon Society, told The Real Deal that the goal of the protest is raise public awareness about the potential negative impact the boat show will have on the ecosystem in the water surrounding Marine Stadium.

“Our concern is that the size of the boat show and the number of people attending is going to impact a critical area,” Reynolds told TRD.

The city of Miami cut a deal with the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, the boat show operator, to host the event at Virginia Key in 2016. The boat show is relocating from its longtime home at the Miami Beach Convention Center because that venue will be undergoing a renovation that is slated to begin later this year. The Miami City Commission approved roughly $18 million in infrastructure improvements to an existing parking lot that is being converted into a park that will also double as an event space.

Key Biscayne filed separate lawsuits against the city and National Marine to stop the boat show from being held at the Marine Stadium property, alleging the city’s plans will lead to chaotic traffic congestion along the Rickenbacker Causeway, the only artery into Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. Both sides are currently in mediation to try and reach a compromise.

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Environmentalists joined the fray after 500 feet of protected mangroves on Virginia Key were illegally cut down by city workers preparing the site for the boat show. City officials have maintained the removal of the trees was an unfortunate mistake.

Protest organizers are encouraging demonstrators to arrive on foot, boat, kayak, and paddle board by 10 a.m. Saturday.

Reynolds said the ultimate goal is to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hold a hearing that allows the public to give comments about the boat show before the agency approves any permits.

The corps’ initial review in May of the boat show’s plans found that the project would cause “substantial” harm to Biscayne Bay bottom where fish and other marine life live.

Cathy Rick-Joule, Director of the Miami International Boat Show, said National Marine is working with local, state, and federal environmental regulatory agencies to ensure that any sea life in the area is not harmed.

“The Miami International Boat Show has a record of protecting and respecting the environment that surrounds its events,” Rick-Joule said in a statement, “and we intend to uphold this track record.”