Help save the future of the historical Matheson Hammock in Miami, Florida

My childhood was built on bike rides through mangroves, picnics beneath an old limestone fort, sandy sunning along a coast inlet, and boating excursions – all enjoyed at Matheson Hammock Park & Marina. One of the outdoor staples residents of ritzy South Florida, this slice of nature offers an escape from the surrounding mansions and 5 o’clock traffic jams along Old Cutler. For now.

The sanctutary (for humans and wildlife alike) at Matheson Hammock is gravely endangered.

It recently came to light that Miami-Dade County awarded a private company the rights to construct an enormous 5-story boat warehouse in the park – and the folks who cherish Matheson simply won’t have it. Obviously thinking with their calculators instead of their souls, the county selfishly allowed for a potentially disastrous edifice to be built.

Why is this boat warehouse such a horrible idea? Well aside from the giant eyesore that will forever change the skyline, this facility will have a monstrous impact on the community and park. The once peaceful destination will become crowded with traffic to and from the storage warehouse, and if you’ve ever taken a drive down Old Cutler at rush hour, you know how torturous congestion is on those roads. Not to mention the noise pollution, the potential for run-off and introducing harmful chemicals into a delicate ecosystem.

As a park enthusiast, I am outraged by the idea of my beautiful mangrove landscapes becoming defaced by a looming structure, and I am livid at the thought of my favorite raccoon family slurping on water tainted by the extra pollution introduced by the warehouse and extra flock of boats within. As a boater, I can’t even fathom the idea of the marina becoming any more crowded than it already is on any given sunny morning. I have to wonder if those in favor of this storage facility have ever been to the park on a warm Saturday – do they really think there is capacity for more people/boats?

So what can you do to save Matheson Hammock Park?

First, and foremost, you can sign the petition against the boat warehouse. Then, you can share it with all your friends. While the City of Coral Gables is infamous for making any home renovation permits a nightmare, it’s also well-known for it’s excellent history of listening to the people. Unlike the county, the city is truly concerned for the welfare and well-being of its residents. Contact the City of Coral Gables, and let them know how you feel about the future of Matheson Hammock.

You can also ‘like’ “Save Our Matheson Hammock Park” on Facebook, so you can keep up with all the updates and happenings. Finally, you can watch and share this video, which provides an excellent view of the park, and illustrates why Matheson is such a vital lifeline for our community and environment:


Still not convinced? Check out this blog for ten photographic reasons to save Matheson Hammock.

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Guest Blog – The Bronxonia Yacht Club, Mr. Softee, Swans, and Uncle John’s Birthday

Editor’s Note: As a special birthday treat to honor my ‘Uncle’ John, enjoy a guest post written by my father, George Boue. Every year, he embarks on a boys-only trip up the Hudson River – and every year I find myself turning green with envy as he regales me with tales of his mishaps and experiences out on the water. Dig in, and get ready for a great northeastern adventure. Happy Birthday, Uncle John! 

The Bronxonia Yacht Club is one of those gems in the rough”that few people are fortunate to experience. Labor Day weekend found me and two family friends getting together for an annual boating adventure. The Club is a located by the Throggs Neck Bridge, and features inexpensive booze and blue-collar folk who are always willing to lend a hand – which is always needed if you own a boat.  It is truly a piece of “Americana,” and always serves as the start of our boating trips.

Mechanical concerns and the probability of floating debris from TS Irene kept us from our typical trip up the Hudson River, so we ventured to other places, including one night to LaGuardia Airport to watch the planes swoop over the boat. Afterwards, we continued cruising to the Arrow Yacht Club.

Following a couple of beers in the bar, we decided to walk the neighborhood. Danny and I were instantly brought back to our childhood in Elmhurst, Queens. College Point, also in Queens, has similar middle-class, brick and siding 2-story homes similar to those seen on King of Queens. We recollected playing games of manhunt that would encompass a whole city block, lasting for hours with all the kids in the neighborhood.

The nostalgia was heightened when we heard a familiar sound, evoking a Pavlov response. We rushed just in time to catch up with a Mr. Softee truck. It has probably been more than 20 years since I have enjoyed a Softee root beer float. What makes these special is the way you can suck-up the soft vanilla ice cream along with the root beer through the straw. It was delicious. Danny had a hot fudge sundae, and he too was brought back in time.

The top adventure was cruising down the East River on a sunny Labor Day, en route to the Statue of Liberty. Just as we passed under the Brooklyn Bridge the engine made a sudden whirring sound followed by smoke and the smell of burning rubber from the engine compartment. We were dead in the water, smack in the middle of the river with barges and ferries cruising by. We couldn’t drop anchor right away, so we let the tidal current take us further north. John was able to engage the engine in short spurts just to move us out of the way. We slowly drifted toward the Brooklyn side, eventually anchoring between the Williamsburg and Queensboro Bridges.

We had a fantastic view of Midtown, including the 23rd Street Heliport which also has seaplanes. After a comedy of phone calls with BoatUS and Sea Tow that took 3 hours, we were saved by a Bronxonia member, Richie, who towed us back to the Club. The most harrowing part of the trip (at least to John, Danny and Annie who were on the disabled boat) was navigating through Hells Gate, where multiple waterways converge to form strong currents that have sunk many a ship. Both boats swayed and rocked and I really thought the rope was going to snap. This was the biggest test of our Honey Badger theme for the trip.

But as with all our adventures and debacles we made it back safe, and added one more story to our collection. This blog is in honor of one of the nicest guys on the planet, someone who is not daunted by any setback, and who has always seen the glass as not only full, but spilling-over. Happy Birthday, John!

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Boating to Key Largo, dolphin pods in the bay, and conch fritters at Alabama Jacks.

When reflecting on what I’ll miss about my fleeting time in Miami, spending time out on the boat is one of the biggest contenders. Propelling across the bay with nothing but the sun and the air and the salt affords for a true escape from the realities waiting at the dock. Our family boat, unofficially named the Rusty Bucket, is no sprawling yacht — just a cozy vessel for trips to the Upper Keys, and rides up the Miami River.

On this particular excursion, I accompanied my parents on a day trip down to Key Largo for lunch at a local gem, called Alabama Jacks. This joint embodied everything that the Keys represent; it was dirty, salty, full of beer, and offered finger-lickin’ grub all afternoon long. The elder Boue’s were pumped on the idea of chowing down at Alabama Jacks, but I had never experienced it before, so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride down from Matheson Hammock in Miami.

The restaurant sits perched along a bank of Card Sound — basically at the base of the Keys, to give perspective to anyone who has had the pleasure of taking the beautiful drive down through the islands. The wood planks surrounding the establishment are mismatched and sloppily painted; this place has boater dive bar written all over it. We docked the boat along the side of the restaurant, and took the best table at the house in the back corner overlooking the water.

We ordered a combo platter with fried Mahi fingers, piles of conch fritters, crispy crab cakes, french fries smothered in cheese, and homemade potato salad. Served in a messy heap of seafood glory, everything was absolutely delicious. I’m not the biggest fan of oysters, clams, or conch, but the fritters at Alabama Jacks were too outrageous to resist. The conch was perfectly breaded and had an addicting crunch as you munched away. Top it all off with a cold beer, and you’ve got yourself a winning combination.

While I deeply enjoyed my down-home, no-frills experience at Alabama Jacks, I would highly recommend that any visit to the area be taken via watercraft. Whether you roll up in a mega yacht, humble fishing vessel, or even a seaworthy canoe, half of the overall vibe felt at this restaurant is fostered by interaction with the water you sit perched above while getting your fill of seafood and salty air. Driving down to load up on conch fritters would likewise be enjoyable, but traffic and pavement shadow in comparison to a seaside ride.

On the way back to town, we encountered a pod of about six dolphins powering their way up the channel. We spent a few minutes chasing them around so I could get a good shot, and of course during the sole moment of perfectly exposed hind flukes from a dolphin just a few feet from the boat, I had put my camera in my lap to wipe the lens and missed the ideal opportunity. Here’s the next best shot:

Sadly, it will be at least until the next warm season that I’ll have a chance to head out on the boat again. I’ll be leaving on a six week solo trip on September 1, and won’t be back in Miami until the winter – which means no boat for me. In the meantime, I’ll have to get my fill of fresh air up in the mountains.

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