The Village of Palmetto Bay in the past has conducted Town Hall meetings on various topics for residents to attend and provide input, but on Wednesday Mar. 30, officials and staffers had the first ever “town hall for kids.”
The location was the cafeteria of Coral Reef Elementary School, 7955 SW 152 St., and the topic of discussion was new playground equipment for Coral Reef Park, which is adjacent to the school. District 1 Councilmember Karyn Cunningham hosted the event, which also was attended by Mayor Eugene Flinn, village manager Ed Silva, village Parks & Recreation director Fanny Carmona, village clerk Meighan Alexander and others.
About 100 students from several schools along with their parents participated. The event attracted more people than usually attend “adult” town hall meetings.
Councilmember Cunningham was delighted by the turnout.
“I’m super pleased,” Cunningham said. “Today is really a first here in Palmetto Bay. The reason we wanted to focus on the children is because of the newly named Bridget Allison Pier Playground, and wanting to include all those in the community who use the playground.
“What better way to find out what to put into the playground than by asking the people who actually use it,” she said. “The kids had some very innovative and fresh ideas.”
Starting at 3 p.m. and lasting an hour, the meeting began with presentations by Cunningham and Silva about the inventive kinds of new playground equipment that are available, then shifted to asking the youngsters for their input about what they liked and didn’t like about the existing playground, and what they would like to change.
There w also as ten minutes of onsite time with the students and parents using clipboards in the playground to rate what they saw there.
Besides proposing to bring back the Apollo ride, other equipment shown in the presentation included a modern swing set called The Biggio Solo, a Rocketship climber, a Skyrun Zipline, an electronic game called the Pulse Tempo, a Triple Toss Funhoop and a Tandem Swing for parents and infants.
Mayor Flinn said after the meeting that he liked the idea of the town hall for kids and was glad that some of the equipment enjoyed by children and parents that had been taken out previously could return. But he had a cautionary comment too.
“They are going to be the users, but I look forward to the parents contributing to this as well,” Flinn said. “All this is going to come at a price; we have to price it all out. It’s going to be more than just the initial capital, it’s also the maintenance on this, and it’s going to be substantial because we want to maintain the best playground we can. This is going to be a great playground. Will it be worth it? I think so. But there will be substantial cost to the upkeep.”
Coral Reef Elementery student Lily Stephenson-Ellis liked the chance to participate.
“I thought it was a really good idea, because a lot of us kids go here and we play a lot after school, and it’s nice to get to say what we play on,” Lilysaid . “It’s nice to have a say in what we like and what we don’t.”
Her mother, Betsy Stephenson, appreciated what was done for several reasons.
“I think Councilwoman Cunningham’s idea to have a town hall and get feedback from children is fantastic,” Stephenson said. “It’s an opportunity for the children to take some ownership and be civically involved, and they care, so why not ask them.”