Town opens newest park with attempt at record

By Gary Alan Ruse….

Town officials, park staff and residents join to cut the four-and-a-half-mile long ribbon.

The Town of Cutler Bay opened its newest recreational facility, the Lakes by the Bay Park, on Saturday, Dec. 3, with the enthusiastic help of a few thousand residents.

Not only is the park a huge facility covering 25 acres, the opening event featured a remarkable ribbon-cutting ceremony using a four-anda- half-mile long red ribbon held by about 750 volunteers in an effort to earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Formal verification may not come from Guinness officials until early January, but by all accounts, Cutler Bay succeeded in setting a new record.

Besides a Guinness representative being on hand to oversee the attempt, a helicopter flew overhead taking aerial photos of the massive effort. It took time to get all the volunteers in place as a golf cart moved up and down the lines with a park staffer in the back holding a huge spool of ribbon, unreeling it into their waiting hands.

Alan Ricke, the director of Parks and Recreation, was overseeing the big event and said he was happy to be there coordinating it all, although it was a lot of hard work.

“It kind of gives me goose bumps that we finally got to this point,” Ricke said. “This park has been thought about for more than 20 years. We acquired the property about a year and a half ago and here we are opening day, so we moved really fast. He gave a lot of credit to the contractor, Skanska.

“They worked really hard out here to make sure this got done.”

He said the town owns a little over 49 acres with about 25 acres developed right now. There is space at the backside of the park that is passive for some picnic areas.

“That will come later on when we’re able to pull together a little more funding,” Ricke added. “We have grant applications in to try to get that part of the park developed. It’s a little way down the road.”

The Road Kings Band and several school bands and choirs provided music during the roughly five-hour event. There were family-oriented games and activities and the ribbon-cutting ceremony were followed by a free cookout. Lakes by the Bay Park has three baseball/softball fields, two lighted football/soccer fields, restrooms, a concession stand, exercise trail and parking area.

Bill Hurst, president of the Perrine Baseball and Softball League in Cutler Bay, was supervising three softball games and three baseball games that day at the park and couldn’t say enough good things about it.

“We are thrilled and excited that Cutler Bay has given us the opportunity to expand our baseball and softball programs,” Hurst said. “We’ve been over at Franjo Park since the early ’70s and it’s a great facility, but it gets a little tight, and because of the tightness and the number of members that we have, our girls have been playing over at Palmetto Bay Park, and this one now allows us to bring our girls back home to Cutler Bay.

“All of us are extremely excited about that. We can’t begin to thank Cutler Bay enough, and I know Dade County had a lot to do with it, and Katy Sorenson cannot be forgotten.”

There also were teams of youngsters from the Palmetto Raiders Football and Cutler Bay Soccer using the new fields.

Mayor Ed MacDougall clearly was excited that the day of the park dedication had arrived, and about the impact the new park would have on the community.

“What it means to me is precisely what I believe it means to all the people of Cutler Bay, in that we waited for 20-plus years to be able to have a park like this,” the Mayor said. “To see 2,000 people out here on this day enjoying the park is not only a milestone for us, it’s a breath of success for the people of Cutler Bay.

“I couldn’t be happier. It took a lot of goings-on to get it done, and my hat’s off to the council members and all the people who had a part in getting this done. Congratulations to the people of Cutler Bay.”

The park is located at 8551 SW 216 St., next to Whigham Elementary School.

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