High Pines residents undertake community restoration of crumbling coral rock arches

High Pines residents undertake community restoration of crumbling coral rock arches

High Pines residents are planning to save, rebuild and restore the distinctive and historic native coral rock arch-es that define their neighborhood; the pillars are presently in various stages of disrepair. Pictured from left: J.T. Rawlins, T.K. Heatley, James Heatley, Austin Matheson, Suzanne Martinson, Elizabeth Smith, Henry Matheson and Susan Heatley are among the project’s grassroots organizers. Brittany Spaniels Lucy and Slater Heatley manage “community outreach!”

A small, dedicated group of High Pines neighbors have come together to save, rebuild and restore the distinctive and historic native coral rock arches that define their neighborhood, which lies just east of Red Road and immediately south of Sunset Drive.

Grassroots organizers, spearheaded by neighbor Susan Heatley, say they’ve undertaken the restoration project to maintain the integrity and unique charm of their High Pines neighborhood.

While pillars similar to those in High Pines were conceived by George Merrick (founder of Coral Gables), the origin of the High Pines coral arches is not clearly documented. Residents believe the arches predate the 1940s, and may even be much older. “They have endured the test of time, withstood countless hurricanes, aged gracefully and are significant reminders of all that is special about our neighborhood,” Heatley said.

Yet the decades have also taken their toll. The North arch on 54th Avenue & Sunset Drive requires reconstruction, and the East and West arches at School House Road & 76th Street and Red Road & 76th Street, respectively, need upkeep repairs due to crumbling mortar.

The restoration organizers, who, in addition to Heatley, include her husband, TK, and son, James, neighbors Keith Donner, Louise Gardner Schwartz, Lisille Matheson, George Prendes, Elizabeth Smith and a handful of others, are grateful to count architect Suzanne Martinson among their number. Martinson volunteered to draw up the necessary 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 “Arch Angels” are hoping to raise through contributions from as many neighbors as possible. With about 400 single-family residences in the area, organizers calculated that if every High Pines household contributed just $20 to this collective effort, the projected costs will nearly be covered. The door-to-door fundraising campaign launched in October has already yielded more than $5,000, and organizers say donations continue to trickle in.

A dedicated account was established to manage and dispense the repair funds. Contribution checks should be made payable to “High Pines Arches, Inc.” and submitted c/o TK Heatley, EWM, 550 South Dixie Hwy., Coral Gables, FL 33146.

The arches restoration awareness campaign was launched on September 27th at a High Pines Open House hosted by Tropical Audubon Society at its historic Doc Thomas House, located on Sunset Drive. TAS director Laura Reynolds noted, “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.”

Recognizing a need, seeking a solution and pulling together to accomplish the goal is an example of how this close-knit pocket neighborhood nurtures its old-fashioned sense of community. “It doesn’t take a hurricane to get us outdoors,” Elizabeth Smith said. “We know our neighbors; we walk and talk and help each other year-round; kids still play outdoors here, too. It’s really just a wonderful place to live.”

Anyone interested in helping restore the coral arches to their historic role as High Pines sentinels should contact Susan Heatley 786- 348-6522 or James Heatley 305-962-4689.

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