With 70 percent of local residents born abroad or in other states, Greater Miami is the first place many new U.S. citizens call home. The South Florida National Parks Trust wants to help connect new residents to the unique natural environment in and around the community. Their idea is to have citizenship ceremonies in Biscayne and Everglades National Parks, and with their 2017 Public Space Challenge win, they’ll have an opportunity to make it happen. The Trust joins 20 other winners in The Miami Foundation’s annual contest for ideas that create, activate and improve local public spaces. With additional support from Target and West End (WE) Go Green, they’ll share $350,000 in grant awards to make the ideas a reality.

“This year’s winners are all helping residents take ownership of the amazing parks and public spaces right outside our doors,” said Javier Alberto Soto, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation. “Whether it’s a vacant lot on the water, national park or 1-95 underpass, we can reimagine how Miamians experience these spaces to encourage appreciation and care for our distinct urban landscape. The Challenge gives residents the opportunity to do that.”

 This year, residents, organizations and public agencies throughout Miami-Dade County submitted more than 440 ideas to the Public Space Challenge, setting a new record for entries. Since 2013, the contest has invested over $1.1 million in activations and permanent projects across the county.

The Miami Foundation worked with the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department to connect Challenge ideas to the Open Space Master Plan. The comprehensive, 50-year vision looks to create a seamless, interconnected and sustainable system of parks, public gathering places, trails, waterways, greenways and streets throughout the county.  The Foundation invited applicants to review the plan, and think about how their 2017 ideas fit within it.

Answering the call, residents Annie St. Juste and Lanston Williams submitted the winning idea of Liberty City Lights to illuminate their neighborhood, which becomes dangerously dark at night. St. Juste and Williams live in the Annie Coleman public housing project off NW 60th Street. With Public Space Challenge grant funding, they will lead the installation of lights along three pathways that link to Charles R. Drew K-8 Center, area parks and the Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI) Memorial Garden.

“We want for our children and our neighbors to be able to have walkways where you don’t have to look over your shoulders every minute. We believe that with added lights, it will not only make our walkways to the park and home safer, but also will allow our children to play outside longer and enjoy all the benefits of MCI’s playground and the basketball court,” St. Juste and Williams wrote in their submission.

“We are proud to support winning ideas that promote active play and healthy eating,” said Alden Kooken, group vice president of South Florida stores for Target. “These projects are an important part of how we invest in the long-term vibrancy of the local community we serve.”

Each winner will receive technical assistance from The Miami Foundation to work with county and municipal offices in executing their projects. The full list of 2017 winners is below. To learn more about this year’s winning ideas, visit ideas.ourmiami.org.

For a full list of this year’s winners, click here.

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