AMELIA EARHART PARK
The site Amelia Earhart Park currently sits in was part of Naval Air Station Miami, specifically it was an undeveloped portion of the park which was used for training exercises, storage and other activities. There are stories from old timers who remember it being used as wild hog hunting grounds, a munitions storage facility and at one point an unofficial city dump.
Site of Amelia Earhart Park in 1953.
The "Miami-Dade County Regional Park" sat in the southern undeveloped portion of decades-old Naval Air Station Miami. It was never an airport and never part of the City of Miami-owned Miami Municipal Airport which was on the east side of LeJeune Road (small V-shape on the bottom right side of the picture) and south of NW 119th Street (E. 65th Street) in Hialeah.
When the Navy discontinued operations at Naval Air Station Miami the U. S. Marine Corps moved to the Navy property from Master Field, another large airport on NW 27th Avenue, east of Amelia Earhart Field. Marine Corps Air Station Miami only operated a couple of years before the Marines shut it down.
Site of Amelia Earhart Park in 1970.
The federal government's General Services Administration was then charged with disposition of the property and they granted a Dade County bid to assume ownership of the air station's existing airport facilities except for a portion reserved for the U. S. Coast Guard's Air Station Miami. The county named the airport "Opa-locka Airport" due to the name of the city immediately east of the airport. Community leaders, notably Bill Graham (dairy farmer and developer of the Miami Lakes community) successfully lobbied the federal government to be granted about half of the property on the southern portion of the former Naval Air Station, extending from LeJeune Road westward to approximately W. 2nd Avenue in Hialeah, to be given to the county for a large regional park.
The remaining southern portion of undeveloped air station land was auctioned off to private developers west and north of Amelia Earhart Regional Park. Amelia Earhart's Farm Village is named after Bill Graham, son of former state senator Ernest R. "Cap" Graham, and the developer of the Miami Lakes residential and commercial development west of Opa-locka Executive Airport.
Site of Amelia Earhart Park in 1984. Note that Gratigny Parkway was not built until 1992.
Though sources differ as to when exactly mountain bike trails were first built, it is estimated that it came to be sometime in the early-1990's when around 3-4 miles of trail were built by Chris Marshall, the owner of The Broken Spoke bicycle shop along with a handful of regular clients.
A huge issue Amelia Trails have had since the very beginning is the ultra-fast vegetation growth, which made it nearly impossible to keep open year-round. We know that early on, the trails were only ride able during winter months, when the vegetation would halt its growth and allowed for cutting crews to enter and clean up trails.
In Da House
Sometime around the late 1990's the Bike Club "In Da House" assumed trail operations. Lead by Steve Rodriguez, they endeavored maintenance and built a few more miles of trails. Maintenance was grueling, and the vegetation grew so aggressively that the park was only open to riders for 4 months out of the year.
According to some of the members of that era the story goes: "we just loved riding and racing at the park and we wanted to be there all the time; so we would go and cut and build. In the pre-cellphone-social media world we lived in, it was the funnest thing we could do".
Amelia Earhart Park as of 2020.
In Da House operated as stewards of the Trails until 2007.
Brothers Stephen and Frank LaRue assumed Trail operations in 2008, implementing most of the layout the park is in today, most notably the "Dry Loop" which allows the park to be ridden during Summer months. Other trails created included the Gold Mines skills area, Chupacabra Trail, Golden Gate, Razorback, and the Paintball Loop. The concept of keeping the trail open year-round required a unique approach which came to be referred to as the "Dog Park" layout. This layout required extensive green areas and access roads interlaced between the trails. This would allow for machinery to enter into the deepest areas of the trail to perform maintenance and build-outs year-round.
It was around this time when Miami-Dade County got involved along with Commissioner Steve Bovo, who helped add some key improvements such as the paved road leading to the trailhead, paved parking lot as well showers, and washing stations.
As of 2020, Amelia Earhart Mountain Bike Trails are fully permitted and approved, as part of the official Miami-Dade County Master Plan.