In Florida, an endless fight for the survival of the beaches

In Florida, an endless fight for the survival of the beaches

« Miami, more than a beach [plus qu’une plage] ! » Dan Gelber, the Democratic mayor of Miami Beach, likes to quote the slogan, though he is careful to immediately add “but first we are a beach”. Besides, in his vast office, in addition to the photo of President Kennedy, the extent of the beach, the beaches should we say, of his municipality is displayed on a large scale.

What to post it does not show is that this major asset of the region is threatened, and that, on the shore, the frenzy of earthmoving machinery, to re-silt, rubs shoulders with summer idleness some tourists. Because they are essential to the local economy. Miami remains the guaranteed souvenir photo, beach, sun, palm trees and tall glass buildings that reflect an intense luminosity.

Sunny Isles beach (Florida), in April 2022. The Garcia Mining company provided the sand needed for its backfilling.
Two tourists take advantage of the absence of works on Sunday, in Fort Lauderdale (Florida), on April 8, 2022.

Dan Gelber, a dynamic sixty-something, with a tanned face as it should be when one has always lived in the “Sunshine State”, reigns over this “small” city of 90,000 inhabitants, when its large neighbor, Miami has 461,000. But it is mainly facing the tourist wave. Ten to fifteen million tourists roam its streets, and especially its beaches, each year, which makes the state the second most popular North American destination after New York. Florida ports top the world ranking for cruise ships, with proximity to the Caribbean, and three terminals: Miami, Port Canaveral and Everglades, for a total of more than twelve million passengers. Miami Beach therefore lives to the rhythm of tourism, often rowdy, a mixture of kitsch, luxury, ostentation and family stays, boosted, among other things, by the huge Disney park in Orlando.

The immense expanses of fine sand remain the primary target of tourists. “Everyone loves the beach, but we have to ask ourselves what people do when they leave it at the end of the day”says Dan Gelber again. And to praise other cards played by his city, such as hosting the Super Bowl final, a major event in the planet of American football, in 2020, or the importance of his basketball team, the Miami Heat , one of the best in the essential NBA, the North American basketball league, but also the investment, important he assures, in culture, or even in fashion.

“The dynamic of hospitality is essential for our economy”, he insists. Even if it means regretting the attractiveness of its region on certain occasions, such as the spring break, this spring week when a large number of students choose sunny destinations to let loose. And Miami is a good spot. “Young people come here to get drunk, it’s not interesting for us, all the towns on the coast hate it”, assures the mayor. Tranquility, with a large number of retirees of all origins, must remain an asset.

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