VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. – There are questions about the future of historic Virginia Key after the mayor of Miami refused to veto the city’s takeover of the board of trustees.
That decision has angered many local Black leaders.
N. Patrick Range II is the now-former chairman of the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust, a group of volunteers which oversaw the area’s preservation and restoration.
“To just simply be snatched out of that process is really unbelievable,” Range said. “For us to be stewards over this land for the length of time that we have been, to just abruptly have it taken from us is just very disturbing.”
Virginia Key Beach was once the only beach accessible to Black Miami and during times of segregation.
“That was the beach that we could to recreate, to celebrate,” Range said.
But in a 4-1 vote earlier this month, the Miami City Commission chose to take control of it, ousting every existing member of the majority Black trust and making Commissioner Cristine King its chair.
“To replace these persons, whatever their color, with folks who have not been involved, and who really don’t have a clue what’s going on there, is the slap in the face,” said Range.
Among their issues with the trust, the commission cited slow progress on plans for a Miami Black History Museum at Virginia Key Beach Park.
“Part of that has been because of the lack of political will and structure and support,” Range said.
After the vote, a group of local Black community stakeholders penned a letter to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, urging him to use his veto power.
He did not, leading to the commission take over.