We had the good fortune of connecting with N. Patrick Range, II and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi N. Patrick, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
The Virginia Key Beach Park Trust (“VKBPT”) helps the community and the world in a number of ways. First, it helps this local community by providing an inclusive gathering space for all persons of the community to learn, recreate, reflect, grow and share. The restoration of Virginia Key Beach Park was begun by the VKBPT in order to bring back to life a space that historically meant so much to so many. The Virginia Key Beach Park was the only beach that African Americans could go to in Miami-Dade County. As such, it became a place that blacks both young and old would flock to for purposes like religious events, weddings, birthday parties, family picnics and reunions. The Park was a chance to “get away” for many of Miami’s poorest citizens without actually leaving town. So when the Park fell into disrepair in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s one of the only places that many black citizens enjoyed for years was closed permanently. The VKBPT was established at the behest of many citizens in order to prevent the 82 acre Park from being developed into a private resort for private use. The VKBPT restored the Park so that it could be used by ALL citizens and not be just a privileged few. The VKBPT is proud that the restoration of the Park now allows people of all walks of life to come and learn about what black people experienced during segregation and how they managed to find reasons for celebration and enjoyment even in the midst of such treatment. The learning experience will be augmented further upon the completion of the first museum dedicated to African American history and the first black immigrant experiences here in the Miami area. The VKBPT has transformed the Park during its restoration providing a new landscape with new and different events to be enjoyed. However, the VKBPT has ensured that the community can enjoy many elements of the Park that existed back in the early segregation days as well including provision of a working replica of the historic mini train that kids enjoyed then and can enjoy now. Also, the historic carousel has been replaced for the enjoyment of all children that visit the Park now. The Park also offers an opportunity for all members of the community to come and learn about not just black history but also about the precious environment of the park. The VKBPT promotes learning experiences about several endangered species of animals that exist on the Park as well as numerous native species of flora and fauna existing on the park in a unique setting. So again, the VKBPT helps the community by allowing ALL persons to come and visit and experience the historical and environmental gem that the Park is and all that it has to offer. By helping the community in this fashion, we also help the world by preserving 82 acres of natural green space that is free and open to the public to enjoy in perpetuity. VKBPT attempts to lower the carbon footprint across the globe by promoting environmentally safe practices at the Park. The Park is also “ground zero” for sea-level rise and is a model for resiliency efforts as we prepare for and are sensitive to the changes that the world will experience as time progresses. VKBPT knows that due to the location of the Park we have restored that we will be an example and a model that others will look to as they struggle to deal with the consequences of environmental change and sea-level rise. So we are anticipating, planning for and practicing any number of measures that will help us deal with such changes as they will affect our location first. VKBPT is very proud of this opportunity to be at “ground zero” and to be a “living guide” to others on how to address these changes in our environment that are rapidly approaching. It is our continuing aim and goal that through our efforts our community and our world will have hope for the years ahead in how to positively manage sea-level rise through our resiliency efforts. We aim to continue to benefit the world through the continuing educational, historical, and environmental experiences offered at our beautiful 82 acre park for generations to come.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We are one of the only Parks/Beaches on a Barrier Island in the world. We got to where we are today thanks to the efforts of many citizens, volunteer groups, government officials, and many others. There have been many challenges that we have overcome and continue to overcome due to the continuing efforts of all of the aforementioned persons. We have learned that persistence is key. There have been many opportunities to give up or to go in a different direction but had we done so the beautiful gem that is Virginia Key Beach Park would not be here for all to continue to enjoy. Our story is not unlike many others, but ours is especially unique in that a place that was once segregated and seen as a place only for the least of persons is now a place that everyone sees as one of the most beautiful places to enjoy on the face of the Earth.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would definitely start and end with the 82 acre park that is the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park. It is absolutely one of the most stunning and beautiful places in all of South Florida. Here you get to meet and enjoy people of all walks of life. You also get to learn about so many different aspects of the local history and environment of the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County. Definitely unique things that you would not and could not find anywhere else in the world!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate this shoutout to the late M. Athalie Range, the Founding Chairperson and all current and former Trustees and staff members of the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust

Website: www.virginiakeybeachpark.net

Instagram: virginiakeybeachpark

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