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Ultra Music Festival Moves To Virginia Key Beach, Raises Environmental Concerns

Until recently, Ultra Music Festival was held at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. This year, the concert moved to Virginia Key Beach.
Until recently, Ultra Music Festival was held at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. This year, the concert moved to Virginia Key Beach.

The Ultra Music Festival returns Friday to South Florida.

This year, the three-day electronic dance music concert, which was held for years in Bayfront Park, has been set up in a new location –  Virginia Key Beach, a nearly 900-acre barrier island in Biscayne Bay.

Some environmentalists are concerned the  loud music will harm wildlife in the coastal area.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Christine DiMattei spoke about the potential calamity of dropping beats in Ultra’s new site with The Miami Herald reporters  Joey Flechas and  Jenny Staletovich.

You can listen/read an excerpt of their conversation: 

JOEY FLECHAS: This is an unprecedented event, not only for Virginia Key but for Ultra. They've become a well-oiled machine in Bayfront Park. They've known where to set up the stages, where sound travels, how people move in and out. Those logistical questions. All of that is new this year – including getting people there. And in terms of the environment and getting people there, those are the two main concerns.

WLRN: How many people per day are expected?

FLECHAS: Up to 60,000.

Can all those people even fit on Virginia Key Beach at one time?

FLECHAS: We're about to find out.

For all for those unacquainted with Virginia Key, what is there that is so important to environmentalists?

JENNY STALETOVICH: So Virginia Key, there's always been sort of this tug of war over how it should be used since it's in such an urban environment. But after the speedboat racers were stopped at the Marine Stadium in 1990, the state established a critical wildlife area for wading birds. There's also a manatee protection zone that's right around the corner from the Marine Stadium.

And then on the beach, on the other side of the island, there's nesting habitat for crocs and sea turtles. So there's a lot of wildlife that uses that island despite its location.

Well before the decision to move ultra to Virginia Beach, federal scientists had been examining the effect of noise pollution on underwater life. What have they found so far?

STALETOVICH: That's right. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had started a 10-year study on this growing concern about noise pollution and it had to do with powerboats, pilings, and underwater drilling. And it's still a growing body of research. What they've found is that it, in fact, impacts wildlife in ways that interrupt reproduction and their ability to find food. Things they need to do to survive.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Alexander Gonzalez is a recent graduate of the University of Miami. He majored in English and was the the editor-in-chief of The Miami Hurricane newspaper from 2014-15. He was WLRN's digital intern during summer 2015. He subscribes to too many podcasts and can't get away from covering the arts in Miami.
Years ago, after racking her brains trying to find a fun, engaging, creative night gig to subsidize her acting habit, Chris decided to ride her commercial voiceover experience into the fast-paced world of radio broadcasting. She started out with traffic reporting, moved on to news -- and never looked back. Since then, Chris has worked in newsrooms throughout South Florida, producing stories for radio broadcasts and the web.