Volunteers help transform Miami’s Virginia Key from desolate hammock to lush wilderness

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Once-desolate Virginia Key in Miami is being repopulated by native trees and wildlife, thanks to volunteers.

06/16/2014 4:12 PM

06/17/2014 5:49 PM

Just seven years ago, the 17-acre hammock in Historic Virginia Key Beach Park was as desolate as a moonscape. Now, it is brimming with native plants and wildlife.

Volunteer Gary Hunt, armed with a Home Depot fanny pack and a floppy tan hat, walks the overgrown path, pointing out hundreds of new trees and recalling the owls and warblers he has spotted in the park. “This shows you very profoundly what volunteer effort can do,” Hunt said. Volunteers such as Hunt have helped transform Virginia Key into a destination for wildlife and locals alike, during many hot, mosquito-ridden weekends of planting trees and maintaining park grounds.

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“We’re trying to position Virginia Key as the City of Miami Central Park,” said Guy Forchion, the executive director of Virginia Key Beach Park Trust. Just last month, Tourism Cares, a Massachusetts-based volunteer group of travel professionals, brought 325 people to Virginia Key. They planted nearly 800 trees in the hammock and 11,000 sea oats at the North Point, an area on the tip of the island. The group also cleaned debris from Miami Marine Stadium, a once-popular destination on Virginia Key for concerts and power boating. Tourism Cares’ planting marked a milestone in the ongoing restoration project: the end of major replanting on the neglected property.

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Virginia Key Miami Herald June 17

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