In May, the Village of Pinecrest Council passed a Resolution urging the County to expedite the remediation of Chapman Field Park and to return the use of the ball fields to the communities who have been without access for the past two years. The Resolution specifically identified that there were three separate populations of ball players who have lost significant access to ball fields, as a result of losing the use of the Park in 2014, including youth and teens playing the Howard, Palmetto baseball 7 softball League, the Palmetto Senior High Baseball team, using the fields for nighttime practice and an adult league. The Pinecrest Resolution was sent to our County Commissioner, Suarez and Levine Cava’s offices, and to the Mayors office at that time.
Last week I attended a meeting regarding the County’s plans for Chapman Field Park. The meeting was described as informational, to provide the community with the environmental findings, the health evaluation and a corrective action plan. We heard a very comprehensive report from DERM and from the Health Department about their testing, the underlying causes of the arsenic findings , and the results and the health risks.
But when it came to presentation of the plans for the future of the park, the County Parks department began by presenting a verbal report of findings from a “countywide survey “. that not a single person present was aware of or had participated in, indicating, according to this “survey” , that there was very little interest in continuing the use of ball fields in county parks anymore. And that, therefore, the Parks Department had determined they would re purpose Chapman Field park to just one ball field, eliminating two of the ballfields, and create a passive park where yoga and other passive activities could be conducted.
I, and everyone else in the room, was flabbergasted. The ballfields at Chapman have been extensively used for more than three decades, and are highly desired by our youth, teens and adults.
It is shocking to me that the Parks department would attempt to eliminate two of the three highly popular and desperately needed baseball fields from our community, based on some vague survey that was not specific to our community. I assure you, if the results were geo- coded, you would have found that we in South Dade still value and demand our ball fields.
I have asked that the county parks department provide our community with a series of focus groups, town halls and other more localized opportunities to provide input prior to any change of use being considered. Perhaps there are other parts of the county that no longer want ballfields in their parks, but certainly the Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay communities continue to demand access to the three ballfields we have made high utilization of over the past three decades, by youth, by teens, by Palmetto Senior High and by adults who had an active league of their own.
In fact, the Howard Palmetto Baseball & Softball League Board members indicated that they had for years partnered with the Parks department in funding improvements to the fields and the park, and were shocked that such a fast move as to eliminate the ball fields without so much as a conversation would have been taken by the Parks department. And the Village of Pinecrest Parks Director, Loren Matthews , also in attendance also indicated the critical need we have for the return of the three ballfields, and that she too had not been contacted or consulted by the Parks department . It was extremely disappointing to say the least .
I know that the staff of Commissioner Suarez and Levine Cava were present at the meeting, and I assume, that they reported back to them how upset those present were with what we heard, and how we felt cheated. I hope that Our Commissioners will get our three ballfields returned as part of the corrective action plan for Chapman Field.