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Dr. Frances Bohnsack of Miami River Marine Group Honored with 2010 BoatUS Recreational Boating Access Award
Grassroots organization prevails in curtailing Miami River development and the elimination of the working riverfront.

Posted Wednesday, January 19, 2011

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MIAMI, Fla., January 19, 2011 - It was David vs. Goliath, and David won. A group of mostly small, water-dependent businesses had thrived quietly for years on the Miami River, providing much needed boating maintenance services and dockage along the working waterfront. Pitted against them was City Hall backed by big money developers wanting to take valuable waterfront parcels for towering residential projects.

In the end, the marine-related businesses joined together under the grass-roots organization, the Miami River Marine Group, led by their director and land-use expert, Dr. Frances Bohnsack; neighborhood activist Horacio Stuart Aguirre; land use attorney Andrew Dickman; and tugboat owner Capt. Beau Payne. After a long fight that began in 2004, the group achieved victory in getting these plans shelved in August of 2010.

For her role in ensuring the continued existence of this working waterfront and forcing the city to enact a comprehensive plan that prevents residential encroachment for at least seven years, Dr. Bohnsack is honored with a 2010 BoatUS Recreational Boating Access Award.

BoatUS (Boat Owners Association of The United States) created the award program in 2007 to highlight successes in protecting water access as boaters and communities were losing marina slips, service yards and boat launching areas. The goal is to draw national attention to innovative solutions and share success stories so that others may help to solve their own waterway access challenges.

Developers had the most respected and expensive legal firm on their side and the ear of City of Miami Commissioners. But the under-funded and scrappy marine-dependent business owners drew the line when it was learned these elected officials wanted to eliminate Miami-Dade County's last do-it-yourself boat yard, Hurricane Cove, and replace it with a 1100-unit condo. Two more waterfront businesses were also targeted for residential redevelopment, which would have filled in all of their boat slips to construct the condos.

To achieve victory Bohnsack and her group reached out to get the support of current neighborhood residents, the Miami Marine Council, the Regional Planning Council and the county's Planning Department. They held demonstrations, packed City Hall meetings, successfully persuaded some divided business owners not to cash out, held fundraisers and on-the-river events and did many press conferences to secure wider support.

Eventually they prevailed in the courts as well, which ensured their ultimate success. After the battle, incumbents on the City of Miami Commission that had aligned themselves with developers were voted out of office.

"Dr. Bohnsack's knowledge of local government infrastructure and lobbying tactics, along with her determined resolve not to be bullied by big, powerful business interests was key in successfully keeping the Miami river a viable working waterfront," said BoatUS Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich.

For more information or to see any of the 12 Access Award winners for 2010, go to

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