Flowering Trees to Creative Arts
After-School to Senior Care
Sports Programs to Special Events
ENJOY THE PARKS IN THE “CITY OF PLEASANT LIVING”
MASTER PLAN VISION The Parks of South Miami
Parks and playgrounds are the soul of a city.
– Marty Rubin
The Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for the management of all public parks and coordination of all recreation programs and activities in the city. The department is comprised of five major service areas that include administration, capital improvement projects, park maintenance and landscaping, recreation and special events. Other significant service area include athletics, aquatics, grant management, and senior programs.
A Decade of Change
Over the last decade there have been much improvements in the parks. It has been a focal point of the city commission. Former mayor Philip Stoddard (2010 – 2020) noted: “A decade ago, all of our parks needed upgrades and investment, none were ADA-compliant, and a couple were downright hazardous for children. By creating a Parks Master Plan, the City Commission and staff documented the improvements that were needed, qualified the City to apply for more parks grants, established the priority and sequence for park improvements, and identified neighborhoods that still needed a local park.”
A much desired Parks Master Plan was developed with the visioning process consisting of an inventory and analysis of existing parks, facilities, programs and current and projected community demographics, and consideration of the needs and desires of the city’s constituency. The study was conducted from 2014 to 2015 and adopted thereafter, providing a ten year strategic document. Parks director Quentin Pough, C.P.S.I., C.P.R.P. refers to the plan as his “bible.”
City CFO Alfredo Riverol, CPA reports that “total expenditures, personnel and operating, have been trending upward. In FY 11-12, the city budgeted approximately 1.7 million in parks, whereas in FY 20-21, total expenditures amount to approximately 2.5 million.”
City commissioner Josh Liebman (2012 – ) who ran for office on a parks beautification platform has said at the dais: “We have the best parks transformation story in the county in the last 15-20 years.”
Inheriting a much touted parks program, current mayor Sally Philips lauds the administration for the work being done: “although each of our fourteen parks has its own unique character, thanks to the oversight of city manager Shari Kamali and the parks director Quentin Pough, all are beautifully groomed and have state-of-the-art installations.”
THE PERSONALITIES AND THE PARKS
South Miami has 15 recreational facilities throughout the city totaling approximately 48 acres of park land. A listing of the parks may be found on page 22.
The park spaces are divided into Pocket Parks (Dog Park, Dison Park, Jean Willis Park); Small Parks (Van Smith Park, Brewer Park, All American Park); Neighborhood Parks (Murray Park, Marshall Williamson Park Girl Scout Little House Reserve, Fuchs Park, Dante Fascell Park, Vice Mayor Robert C. Welsh , Jr. Park), and Community Parks (Palmer Park, South Miami Park).
Since the parks director’s arrival some seven years ago, the city’s park system has expanded to four additional sites: Murray Park Aquatic Center, The Dog Park (which the director likes to refer to as “Bark Park”), Marshall Williamson Mobley Building, and Vice Mayor Robert C. Welsh Jr. Park (formerly Glades Canal Park). The latter small park was acquired for approximately $580K. Parks staff is busy seeking grant funding for its parks: they recently received $50,000 for playground and outdoor fitness structure improvements at South Miami Park, and are seeking $200K for new park improvements at the Vice Mayor Welsh Park.
Other parks acquired in recent times are the Dison Park, purchased by the city in 2009, and the acquisition of the Van Smith Park in 2004. (These parks are situated in the south end of the city.)
New parks acquisition is a priority of newly elected commissioner Brian Corey who is serving out the term of the late Vice Mayor Welsh. Corey’s notes his “major focus is north of Miller Road where there is a lack of parks and green space. We also have a relatively underdeveloped South Miami Park which the city already has plans to improve.” He further noted that he would like to make parks accessible to everyone in the city “by focusing on strategic placement to build them within a quarter mile of any given residence.”
SIGNAGE AND LANDSCAPING
In a city-wide branding campaign the parks department had installation of 23 new identification and marker signage which was completed in 2019 at a $127,700 total construction cost. The project took approximately 8 months to fabricate and install the new park signs.
A landscaping plant template has been developed to suggest plants based on full sun or shade, and high and low drought tolerance.
A plan to eradicate exotics is on-going. Mayor Philips notes “welcome progress in eliminating invasive exotics and planting native species.” Parks which are identified are the Girl Scouts, All America Park and Fuchs Park.
RECREATIONAL PROGRAMS & SPECIAL EVENTS
Existing recreational programs within the city include a variety of city-operated and privately-operated programs. Privately operated programs help offset resident demand for recreational program services while limiting the operational costs to the city. There are a combined total of 19 athletic programs; the city also provides 7 non-athletic programs: afterschool care, three seasonal camps, one-day camps and the senior program. (Source: Master Plan)
The Park & Recreation Department are fully engaged in presenting community wide special events. In the business district, the city sponsors the annual Parade of the Elves and Safe Streets Halloween. Other community events include 4th of July Celebration, Arbor Day, Easter Egg Hunt, Senior Games, Back-to-School Giveaway and more!
SCULPTURES IN THE PARKS
For years we grew familiar with the monumental cement sculptures which were created by Miami Beach native Donald Lee Seiler (1928-2000) and seen at Dante Fascell, Palmer Park and City Hall.
With the advent of the Sister-City program between the City of South Miami and Medellin, Colombia, Dante Fascell Park now showcases some ½ million dollars of new works of art by three Colombian sculptors. The Colombian Sculpture Garden was dedicated in September, 2019 upon a visit by Colombian President Ivan Duque. (See SOMImag.com, Vol. XV, No. 1). It is planned the sculpture project will expand to include additional artists over this coming year.
As a long-time resident in South Miami and raising my daughter here, we know that South Miami is a very desirable community in which to live. As noted at the start of this article “parks and playgrounds are the soul of a city.” It is abundantly clear that playgrounds draw families and families build community. Success breeds success, and I am confident we will continue to build on the fantastic progress made over the last
My journey in inquiring about The Parks of South Miami was a thoroughly enjoyable venture, and made possible by many people.
I would like to first acknowledge the grounds-keepers, the landscaping staff, the maintenance staff and all those who make us shine. My sincere appreciation to city manager Shari Kamali, CFO Alfredo Riverol and most especially to “Mr. Q.” who provided a chefs tour of all the parks and an appreciation of all the ingredients which go into making “The Parks” the shining example it is. Thanks also to Commissioner Josh Liebman who toured the parks with me and gave me a further appreciation of his dream of art in public places with the Colombian Sculpture Garden and venues beyond. And thanks for that vision for our city.