Development plan for water park at Zoo Miami has potential issue due to rare bats

Miami-Dade County commissioners are negotiating with a developer who plans to build a water park near Zoo Miami.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Miami-Dade County commissioners are negotiating with a developer who plans to build a water park near Zoo Miami.

Conservationists aren’t happy, as they feel that the area is a favorite of one of the rarest bats in the country.

Bringing a family-friendly attraction to South Miami-Dade has been years in the making.

In 2006, voters approved the development of an entertainment district on land at Zoo Miami that is not environmentally sensitive.

In a YouTube video (view below), Miami Wilds LLC showcases its vision. At 27.5 acres, it’s a scaled back version of an original concept.

It will feature a water park, retail shoppes and a 200-room boutique hotel.

The developer also touts the economic benefits, from jobs to property taxes.

Miami Wilds Manager Paul Lambert anticipates it could be up and running 36-months from today.

“That’s right, people will be able to have fun at Miami Wilds,” he said.

Lambert added that it will be built on a Zoo Miami parking lot, not any green space.

But according to Bat Conservation International’s Mylea Bayless, that parking lot is the foraging ground for the Florida Bonneted Bat.

“Which is the rarest bat in the United States,” Bayless said. "Even though there are no roosts for Florida Bonneted Bats right in the development zone, the fact that it is used so heavily for feeding likely makes it potential critical habitat.

“We love the idea of Miami Wilds we just think it should not be built on such a sensitive site.”

Lambert doesn’t think there will be any issue, but said they are going through the proper channels.

“This is part of the review process,” he said. “But our thinking right now is that Miami Wilds' development will not have an impact on feeding habits of the bats.”

Lambert said they are also open to potential mitigation efforts.

“Because we don’t want to negatively impact the bat’s habitat or feeding habits if we can avoid it,” he said.

Lease negotiations are underway following last week’s commission vote moving the project forward.

Miami-Dade County Parks has stated it has a dialogue with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address environmental concerns.

Additional information:

Miami-Dade County Commissioners voted last Tuesday to start lease negotiations with Miami Wilds, LLC - passed by a vote of 12-0 (Commissioner Monestime was absent).

Click here to view the resolution

Click here to view a related PDF

Related Link: New Report Shows “Miami Wilds” Development on Environmentally Sensitive Lands Threatens Federally Endangered Florida Bonneted Bat with Extinction

Click here for additional information on the original 2006 vote.

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."