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The Reopening of Merrie Christmas Park

The Iconic South Grove Park Is Now Open To The Public

The City of Miami on March 27, 2015 reopened Merrie Christmas Park, after an extensive eight month remediation effort. The park has been capped with two feet of clean fill above any remaining heavy metals, and bonded rubber mulch has been placed around the base of the trees. New sidewalks have been poured, the playground equipment has been refurbished, and there are more cosmetic improvements coming.
 
I appreciate the initial activism and input by the neighbors about the process by which the City planned to carry out the remediation work, and I want to remind you that each step was ultimately prescribed by DERM and the EPA. Early on a neighbor suggested that the City remove all the contaminated soil and ash from within the park. This would have meant the removal of all trees in about two thirds of the park including the beautiful Banyan trees along Le Jeune Road, because you cannot remove all of the soil without removing the trees rooted in it.


 
I took issue with this approach for several reasons. First, DERM and the EPA had already recommended and approved a plan which would cap the park with two feet of clean fill to create a barrier protecting all users of the park. Second, the proposed plan necessitated the disruption and transportation of the contaminated soil and ash which is contrary to every best practice and was discouraged DERM and the EPA. Third, as most of you know, I have always been an advocate for more green canopy across the city and the removal of such an historic tract of trees was heartbreaking. Finally, the idea of removal of all contamination would cost several million dollars more that the approved plan to cap. It was suggested that if we were to go against the wishes of DERM and the EPA that there needed to be “skin in the game” since neither the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida, nor the Federal Government would fund the difference.
 
We called for a public meeting at City Hall to listen to the residents and allow the City of Miami to present and explain the remediation plan. Once the neighbors realized that advocating for the total removal of the contamination also meant the total removal of trees from the affected area, they began to rethink. With the added cost and time involved with the total excavation plan, it became clear that the City’s plan to cap was the right way to go.
 
We made sure that we had independent authorities on hand, Dr. Richard S. Weisman, Associate Dean at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Director of the Florida Poison Information Center, Elmir Samir of the State of Florida’s Department of Health, and Wilbur Mayorga from the The Department of Environmental Regulation and Management (DERM) to provide individual consultations and explain the volumes of exposure necessary to potentially cause harm to adults, children and pets. It was made very clear that the elevated levels of heavy metals which would exist beneath the proposed cap plan were safely out of harm’s way and that massive daily ingestion (eating) over a prolonged period of time would be the only way to reach levels of toxicity that would be harmful. After capping this was not a realistic concern for parents and neighbors. Equally at that meeting it was announced there would be no need for anyone to put “skin in the game” since we would not be attempting the removal of all contaminated soil and ash from the park.
 
While I was focused on hearing the community’s concerns and finding the best way to restore Merrie Christmas Park, there was at the same time a number of lawyers who were preparing to file a class action law suit against the City of Miami for the use of the 1926 incinerator. Before the community meeting I received a letter from one of the attorneys purportedly representing the neighbors via “PayMyClaims.com” demanding that I cease communication with the neighbors. That attorney’s communication suggested that our office requested $5,000 from each of abutting the residents and that we had requested a total of $50,000, a statement the lawyer could not confirm.
 
There is an old saying that states that a rumor gets halfway around the world before the fact has a chance to put its pants on. The fact and the only thing that matters at this point is that the park is open, safe and is better than before. Merrie Christmas will be able to grow grass as it could never before. Flooding will be mitigated by the cap method and the majestic trees are still standing strong.

As always, if you have questions or concerns you'd like to share, you can always call our office at (305) 250-5333 or email me at msarnoff@miamigov.com.

 

Coconut Grove Park "System" In Full Swing

Park Programs Now Plentiful in Coconut Grove


Our office's top priority is to improve the quality of life of our residents and visitors through the expansion of greenspace within the City. However, those greenspaces could be better activated through improved programming. Gymnastics by Gymagination's arrival to the Peacock Park Community Center at the Glass House on Wednesdays is the newest addition to a multitude of new programs and activities now available to those who live and visit Coconut Grove in the various parks of this area.

At Peacock Park, the City of Miami has programmed after-school activities, soccer, now gymnastics for children, and yoga and pilates for adults. Additionally, a new restaurant named "The Glasshouse" will open its doors soon and will be run by the same owners of the immensely popular Eating House Miami in Coral Gables.

Track and field, softball, football, and lacrosse teams call Esther M. Armbrister Park home so that our kids in Coconut Grove can experience adequate after-school activities, and team sports. Our office allocated around $1 million dollars to this project from our Community Development Block Grant dollars because we understand how important exercise is for our children, and we think the Village West deserves a first-class field to house these athletic teams.



Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra has established his basketball academy at the Virrick Park gymnasium, which provides financial aid for those families who do not have a means to pay for it. It is exciting to have one of the best basketball coaches in the nation run his personalized youth basketball program inside our City of Miami Virrick Park gymnasium. Youth basketball leagues and games are usually held Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Virrick Park is also home for the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, and year-round ballet/tap classes are offered Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Some photos of the programs are below.





Blanche Park and Kennedy Park also belong to the network of parks which provide a place for dog lovers to exercise their pets, for children to play, for beach volleyball aficionados to spend a day in the sun, and for families to take a daily stroll.

Our office had a vision of providing athletic and exercise programs for all children in Coconut Grove and has pushed the City of Miami Parks and Recreation Department to achieve this goal. Our capital investment in new fields, gyms, and other facilities is now yielding great dividends as every child in our community has access to a myriad of local park programs. We at the District 2 office are pleased with the results and are excited to see what new programs will be coming in over the horizon.

If you have any questions regarding park programming, or availability of these programs, please contact the City of Miami Parks and Recreation Department at (305) 416-1300, or email them at parks@miamigov.com.


You can also contact the park managers at the numbers below:

Esther M. Armbrister Park: Robert Scott - 305-442-0376
Virrick Park: Vicky Covington - 305-461-7213
Peacock Park: Patrice Godbolt - 305-443-2604

As always, if you have questions or concerns you'd like to share, you can always call our office at (305) 250-5333 or email me at msarnoff@miamigov.com.
 
Copyright © 2015 City of Miami, All rights reserved.


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