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The Ludlam Trail: 6 Mile Urban Park or 1-House-Wide Suburb?

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Spanning all the way from Dadeland to Miami International Airport is a 100-foot-wide, 6.2-mile-long trail; 72 acres of untouched land in a central part of Dade County that connects two major landmarks and employment centers across miles of urban development, which is now being referred to as The Ludlam Trail. Once a railroad track which kids would play around, collecting rocks as they watched the trains go by (or so my father tells me), is now a hotly debated-upon stretch of land that has the potential for great public uses and benefits. With heaps of space and potential dollars at stake, it comes as no surprise that nearby residents and developers have conflicting agendas. There has been talk of using the space to build a metro-rail-type transportation system, a public park, or a multi-use development.

One of these proposals is to convert the The Ludlam Trail into a major parkway, with community gardens, bike paths, and pocket parks; what could be a cyclist and walker's haven and an actually safe path for bikers and runners alike that could serve well over 30,000 people. This would also be fairly easily adaptable to the addition of a Metrorail line (if it were ever to happen). The Friends of The Ludlam Trail is a non-profit coalition aimed at supporting the Ludlam trail as a "world-class park," and who opposing a developer's much more profit-driven ideas for the trail. The owners, Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), hope to develop townhomes, condos, and apartments along the corridor, with only 25% dedicated as a trail (FECI proposes a sad excuse for a trail – more like a glorified sidewalk lined with a single, long row of houses). Last year, the FECI requested an amendment to Miami Dade County's Comprehensive Development Master Plan in order to rezone the area, which would allow for increased density and the addition of these residences. The request spurred fierce arguments between the community, the city and the developers since FECI's proposal failed to include much detail about the trail -- residents began to wonder whether the FECI would construct a park at all. The Friends of Ludlam Trail had voiced concerns that the FECI only plans to utilize a quarter of the land as a trail, which would thereby eliminate ANY potential for a great park.

The possibility of acquiring the land from FECI would be quite an expensive undertaking and a seemingly unfeasible option; costs of buying the land are estimated between $50 and $100 million. On top of that, constructing the site is expected at $60,000,000 with maintenance running up to a projected $600,000 per year. Therefore, hopes of aligning FECI's goals with the community's goals are in everyone's best interest.

On December 4, 2014, Miami-Dade commissioners postponed a decision for the outcome of the Ludlam Trail until February 2016. In the meantime, community meetings (or charrette meetings) have been taking place in order for residents and activists to voice their concerns. Moving forward, solutions include positioning developments near already dense areas (like Dadeland and Bird Road), maintaining green space in the back of single-family homes, keeping the trail continuous throughout the corridor, ensuring the trail will have the proper amenities like benches, fountains, landscaping, and shade trees, among others.

In one of the latest presentations, drawings using community input reflected a revised ratio of 80% trail to 25% development, flipped from 75% development to 25% trail just last year. Time will tell to see if this actually comes true.—Alexandra J Miller
· Friends of the Ludlam Trail [Ludlam Trail]