This is the first of two articles explaining how Indian Hammocks Park is being explored for new recreational and community facilities by the Department of Parks and Recreation.
During a 2008 citizen’s input session, residents offered a barrage of suggestions to improve Indian Hammocks Park in Kendall — from building an aquatic facility to locating a community center that could double for senior activities. New capital projects that would create additional operating expenses, however, were hardly a priority in cost-cutting county budgets since 2007-08, let alone the immediate years ahead.
Nevertheless, last spring Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier Souto sponsored a resolution that directed Mayor Carlos Alvarez to identify the needs and alternative solutions to expand the 105-acre park, part of a 285-acre land track owned by the county between SW 76th and SW 84th streets, 107th and 117th avenues.
The directive was to analyze future land requirements to expand open space that would allow a wider variety of regional activities to meet increasing recreational and community needs of the Kendall, Sunset and Kendale Lakes areas.
Passed by commissioners on May 4, 2010, the resolution called for a study of existing land uses of county-owned parcels adjacent to the park, as well as developing recommendations for locating a community/senior center, swimming pool and skate park.
To provide expansion room, the study examined the potential of utilizing the abandoned former Haven Center property, relocation of the Solid Waste Department transfer station and a Parks Department maintenance area.
The study also suggests potential reconfiguration of “The Cottages,” a Department of Human Services complex, and its parking areas, located along SW 84th Street.
Completed Aug. 2, 2010, the 31-page “Expansion Feasibility Study” provides direction for both short and long-term land acquisitions that could expand park territory, not only for an aquatic and community center but other facilities as well. Complicating the task, however, is the sale, leasing and other county uses of landtracts adjoining Indian Hammocks Park that have occurred during the years since the county acquired the 285-acre farmland in the early 1900s.
First developed as part of a Kendall Children’s Home, the park is located within “one of Miami-Dade’s oldest properties” since purchase in 1917 from the Gab Bryant Homestead, the report detailed.
Other areas of the original acreage have been assigned in succeeding years to a variety of county agencies; leased to private, non-profit agencies, or simply sold.
County uses have created such ironies as a 25-acre trash and recycling station for the county’s Solid Waste Management abutting a 15-acre pristine forest preserve in the northeast area of the original land holding.
Current uses also include the Miami-Dade Police Kendall District Station, located sideby- side with the Kendall Fire-Rescue Station; a county burial ground for indigents, and the Community Habilitation Center and its nursery, off SW 117th Avenue.
The new Terra Technical Research Institute, Miami-Dade’s pace-setting “green” high school that opened just two years ago, occupies another park-adjoining area bordering SW 107th Avenue.
As Indian Hammocks Park outgrew its neighborhood park status, Kendall simultaneously grew from the county’s “rural western fringe” during the 1970s to 1990s era — accompanied by “increasing number of telephone inquiries and citizen requests for recreation facilities and amenities,” the report stated.
“Most requested: a recreation center, senior center, facilities for the disabled, aquatic center, skate park, dog park and more open space” listed for years as annual priorities for East Kendall Community Council 12 with “most emphasis placed on the senior center and a meeting place for community events.”
The report adds that current athletic fields, including three softball fields and an “informal” soccer field, are “heavily used.”
Noting that an estimated 90,428 residents live within three miles of the park, the analysis also divulged that Indian Hammocks Park is now classified as a “District Park,” similar to Tropical Park and the West Kendall District Park to be built with Building Better Communities (BBC) bond revenues.
Where a $6 million allotment of BBC funding will go for expanding Indian Hammocks Park remains the next step in the Parks Department’s project.
The prime focus is “how to best utilize adjacent areas that border park territory,” in the words of Howard Gregg, deputy director for the Parks Department.
The second part of this story will detail status of park expansion planning.