Parks being sold to the highest bidder
Today, since public schools were closed, I was caring for my 8 year old grandson. He wanted to go to the soccer park in Peacock Park.
We arrived to find it locked, though no one was using it. I inquired of the attendant and he said to come back in the afternoon.
By the afternoon, I had two grandsons with me who wanted to practice in the soccer park in Peacock Park. We arrived at 3:30 pm St. Stephens was using the park and the gate was locked. I was told by the St. Stephens coach to come back at 4:15. He said St. Stephens had an agreement with the City of Miami and paid to use the park during the day until 4:15. There are two soccer courts. One was being used to teach golf(?). I searched out the park employee and no one could be found. The bathrooms had no water nor did the water fountains. Where the Chamber of Commerce had resided is now a Wine Bar being constructed. None of the workers could tell me where the park employee could be found. A parent said, "St. Stephens had built the soccer park so they could use it."
So, my grandsons and I went off and came back at 4:15. I again looked for the attendant and no one could be found. The St. Stephen's kids were gone, but the gate was still locked. My grandsons found a place to shimmy under the fence and I said I would take responsibility if they were scolded for entering that way. The afternoon was flying passed and I wanted them to be able to play. One of the coaches from St. Stephens who was locking the gate on the St. Stephen's side (at 4:45) was nice enough to open the gate that faces the public park, so two other boys (who had been waiting most of the afternoon) could enter the proper way.
By 5:30, it was getting dark and I told the boys 10 more minutes. Along came a young man with a bag full of soccer balls. He drew a curtain dividing the two courts and proceeded to set up markers on his side of the soccer courts. I asked him if he taught soccer (as so many of our public parks do now) and he said the Paris Academy of St. Germain practiced there for two hours. I asked him if the City was renting the court to his school and he said "no." So there was only one court available to the general public from 5:30 to 7:30.
This is very disturbing to me. I pay high taxes to live in the Grove and so do my children. It doesn't seem right that my grandchildren can't access all parts of the parks we support with our taxes, especially when schools are closed.
That park is public land to be used by the public. It should not be considered a money-maker for the city. It's part of the services I and others are paying for just like fire and police.
And what kind of message does having a wine bar in a park send to the children using the park? Kids playing soccer, baseball, softball, basketball and pre-schoolers are climbing on playground equipment can look over and watch their parents and other adults getting "buzzed."
Maybe the City Commission had decided that Coconut Grove should be for the rich who can afford private schools or can afford to pay for soccer programs in the parks. Or better still, maybe the Grove has become more for the affluent professionals or wealthy foreigners without children. So, there is no need to provide space for children to play freely.
Parents and grandparents should raise their voices and demand the City provide access the land which was set aside for the public.
I hope next time I watch my grandchildren, I won't have to drive to Pinecrest or Coral Gables so they can play without restrictions.
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