A small, dedicated group of High Pines residents have organized a neighborhood effort to preserve the distinctive native coral rock arches that define the community area, east of Red Rd. and south of Sunset Dr.
Spearheaded by neighbor Susan Heatley, a grassroots team has begun undertaking fund-raising for a restoration project to help maintain both the integrity and unique charm of the High Pines community.
Similar pillars designating Coral Gables’ entrances were conceived by its founder, George Merrick, but the origin of the High Pines coral arches is not clearly documented. Longtime residents recall they predate the 1940s and may even be much older.
“They’ve endured the test of time, withstood countless hurricanes, aged gracefully and are significant reminders of all that is special about our neighborhood,” Heatley said.
Recent decades have also taken their toll: the north arch on 54th Ave. and Sunset Dr. requires reconstruction. Both the east arch (School House Rd. and S. W. 76 St.) and west arch at (Red Road & S. W. 76 St.), need repairs due to crumbling mortar.
The restoration project organizers in addition to Heatley include her husband, ‘TK,’ and son, James; neighbors Keith Donner, Louise Gardner Schwartz, Lisille Matheson, George Prendes, Elizabeth Smith and several others, grateful to count architect Suzanne Martinson among their number. Martinson has volunteered to draw restoration plans and obtain estimates from expert masons. Prices to complete the project are expected to fall in the $9,000 range, a sum that the High Pines “Arch Angels” plan to raise through neighborhood contributions.
With an estimated 400 single-family residences in the area, organizers calculate a contribution of $20 per home to the collective effort should cover projected costs. An arch restoration awareness campaign was launched on Sept. 27 at a High Pines Open House hosted by Tropical Audubon Society at its historic Doc Thomas House on Sunset Dr.
“Because we steward a treasured piece of Old Florida history and native habitat right here in South Miami, it made sense to invite our High Pines neighbors to gather here and help foster their community effort,” noted Laura Reynolds, TAS Director.
Fundraising letters will be distributed door-to-door during October by block captains assigned to orchestrate the campaign on each High Pines street. A dedicated account has been established to manage and dispense the repair funds.
Those wishing to contribute can make checks payable to “High Pines Arches, Inc.” and mail “c/o TK Heatley, EWM, 550 South Dixie Hwy., Coral Gables, FL 33146.” Those interested in helping restore the coral arches to their historic role as High Pines sentinels can contact Susan Heatley at 786- 348-6522 or James Heatley, 786-962-4689.
Pulling together to accomplish the goal is an example of how this close-knit pocket neighborhood nurtures its old-fashioned sense of community, its residents say.
“It doesn’t take a hurricane to get us outdoors,” adds Elizabeth Smith. “We know our neighbors. We walk and talk and help each other the year-around. Kids still play outdoors here, too. It’s really just a wonderful place to live.”