This spring semester the students in Prof. Ebru Özer’s Landscape Architecture Graduate Design 2 Studio have been studying the Commodore Trail, one of the earliest “designated” trails in the Miami-Dade County, but, perhaps, the least recognized and cared one. This highly utilized 5-mile-long multi-use pathway connects the Vizcaya, Coconut Grove, and the Edgewater neighborhoods and abuts to several public parks and schools along its route.
When Mr. Hank Sanchez-Resnik, the chair of the Friends of the Commodore Trail and a well-known bike friendly city activist, approached Mark Heinicke, a senior park planner of the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, about the needs of a project to re-envision and improve the existing trail, he was recommended to contact Prof. Özer about it. During the last decade, a series of Prof. Özer’s studios have explored design strategies for the potential and existing urban trails within the Miami-Dade County, including the Ludlam Trail, Red Road Trail, Snapper Creek Trail, and The Underline by working together with the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department. The graduate students in these trail studios not only explored design issues pertaining to alternative transportation, infrastructure repurposing, open space connectivity, and community connection, but also participated in county’s public design charrettes and community council hearings, which helped them to understand the importance of user perspectives.
In addition to customary trail design issues, this semester, the students are expected to address some location-specific design challenges posed by a very limited right-of-way, heavy public use, complex root formations of large historic trees, and paving material failures. The students have spent their first classes getting to know the site and listening to lectures presented by experts and local design professionals. After learning about the trail’s historical evolution, the cultural and political issues influencing design decisions, and previous design proposals, the students have been working on-site to document the existing site conditions.