The largest park in the city of Miami is also its least accessible.
The closest residents to Virginia Key Beach Park live in Key Biscayne (technically another city) and in the mansions surrounding Alice Wainwright Park on the city's mainland.
In total, the park accounts for 7.4 percent of Miami's total park space.
Park Score, a project of the Trust for Public Land, recently gave Miami a ranking of 38th of the top 50 cities in the country when it comes to public accessibility to park systems. The score is given based on identifying "which neighborhoods and demographics are underserved by parks and how many people are able to reach a park within a ten-minute walk."
Unfortunately, it is safe to say that if the study considered all the minor details associated with the city's largest park, the city of Miami would drop even further on the list.
Consider the following: besides it's accessibility issues, Virginia Key Beach Park is not free. Visitors must pay a fee of $5 per vehicle on weekdays, and $6 on weekends and holidays. For those non-Key Biscayne residents, that doesn't include the $1.75 toll for crossing the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Bicyclists are also charged $1 to enter the park.
The park also surrounds a Water Management Facility with an aging sewage pipeline running from Miami Beach that could explode any day. This is more a latent threat to the future of the park, but the facility's structures are imposing as it is.
And lastly, there is no swimming allowed at the historic beach. Before the Civil Rights Act, the park was a designated 'Colored Beach', and residents suffered many drownings due to the strong currents and sharp drop off to be found about 50 yards off the park's shores.
Not that it is all bad. Since reopening to the public in 2008, the park has opened biking trails to the public, a popular attraction for the area's cyclists. The city also recently picked up more potential acreage for the park after longtime beer and fish joint Jimbo's returned the land to the city after a family feud.
And if weekend barbecues on the water are your thing, there is scarcely a better place within city limits.
While the project does not explicitly note the conundrum of the city's largest park space, it does identify other sections of the city whose park needs are 'high' and 'very high.'
These areas are mostly concentrated north of Eighth Street and between 22nd and 42nd avenues.