Palmetto Bay’s distinctive skate park has been closed and locked for weeks and may be replaced with a “mini-soccer pavilion” if a proposed plan by village officials goes through.
A resolution of the mayor and village council relating to the parks and recreation Parks Master Plan could authorize revisions to the Palmetto Bay Park master plan to include conversion of the existing skate park to two mini soccer fields with artificial turf as well as other changes to the main park and playground area. The resolution also asks for zoning approval “to allow for public facility public use” at the park. There has been council interest in establishing a community room at the main park.
When the skate parked opened on July 14, 2006 after two years of planning and construction, hundreds of people turned out for the event because there are a limited number of skate parks in South Miami-Dade County. Initially proposed by then District 2 Councilmember Paul Neidhart, a unique aspect of the design of the project was the participation of a special team of teenage resident skateboarders. The Skate Park Board consisted of Daniel Antonell, Chris Araejo, Ian Flink, Nick Gladieux, Cort Lyons, Paul Manoogian and Taylor Mullins Flores.
Village park officials did not respond by deadline to queries about the skate park’s current status and amount of usage, but one source, who preferred to remain unnamed, said that the village staff was concerned with liability issues and that there had been problems with after-hours break-ins as well as management and upkeep of the facility.
Former Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn, who was in office during the park’s development, expressed his concerns in an interview on Feb. 22.
“I think they’re going in the wrong direction,” Flinn said. “That skate park was very well used. It was done as a result of a very strong and inclusive parks master plan process. They’re undoing it on a council whim and not based on any inclusive master plan process.
“If the community said ‘we’re tired of it; we want something else,’ that’s one thing, but we’re not hearing it. We’re just hearing staff and a couple of council members wanting to do away with something that the teen board worked really hard putting this all together. The nice thing about the skateboard park is that it was truly an independent activity, something we were giving the kids, something that isn’t really covered well.”
Flinn said he also was concerned about the cost of the plan.
“They’re going to spend money to demolish something that cost quite a lot of money to put in there,” Flinn said. “Something that was very popular.”
When contacted, former Parks and Recreation director Ana. M. Garcia recalled the opening of the skate park.
“That opening day was amazing,” she said. “There are so many team sports and places for those sports that having the skate park created an environment for individuals to enjoy this recreational activity. Diversity in programming is key to an outstanding parks and recreation department.”
During a public hearing on the issue conducted at a special council meeting at Village Hall on Monday, Feb. 25, two people came forward to address the council. The first was former Vice Mayor Linda Robinson.
“I’m strongly protesting the conversion of the skateboard park,” Robinson said. “When I was in office that was such a special issue in our city. It was one of the few in the whole area and I would hate to see it dismantled. I really think we need to keep that. Thank you.”
The next was resident and park user Buster Trocene.
“I definitely suggest keeping the skate park there because I use it a lot,” Trocene said. “I haven’t, obviously, because the fence has been down. I know there have been problems with people climbing the fence and a few other things like that, but it’s one of those things that people do that anyway.
“If there’s something fun inside of a fence they try to get into it. I never did that because I generally have money to pay. I would also suggest lowering the cost to get in there. Now it’s $5. I would definitely suggest like $2 or something less than $5. I’m for keeping it.”
Because Councilman Tim Schaffer was not present for the meeting, the resolution was deferred until the next council meeting on Mar. 4.