It takes a village to grow a garden

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Pinecrest Gardens is the crown jewel of the Village of Pinecrest. Its history, the sheer joy it brings to families, the educational and cultural initiatives that contributes to its status as South Florida’s Cultural Arts Park, the absolute beauty of the place…all these attributes go into making the Gardens what it is and the enrichment it brings to the lives of all who visit.

The upkeep, the programming, the running of the park is very serious business. It is a small, but dedicated group of Village employees that make it happen…all of whom are gems that enhance the crown jewel. Take a moment to meet the Gardens Administrative Family.

It takes a village to grow a garden
Ryan Ruiz.

Ryan Ruiz
Ryan joined Pinecrest Gardens four months ago as Operations Manager. With more than a decade of management experience in the Hospitality industry, Ryan has had the pleasure to work with the award-winning hospitality group ‘Grove Bay Hospitality’ and the iconic Miami Beach Hotel ‘The Clevelander’ before bringing his talents and enthusiasm to historic Pinecrest Gardens. A Miami Palmetto Senior High graduate and Village of Pinecrest Native, Ryan obtained his bachelor’s degree from the FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality. “My greatest strengths are being well organized and being passionate about my work. My desire and commitment to provide the best possible customer experience has left an indelible mark everywhere I have worked in the past. I plan to carry on this professional legacy at Pinecrest Gardens for years to come”.

It takes a village to grow a garden
Jerry Kinsey.

Jerry Kinsey
Jerry is the Facility and Production Manager for the Pinecrest Gardens Banyan Bowl, our performance amphitheater. He has been a production consultant for over 5,000 productions, providing expertise for producers and directors regarding budgeting, lighting design, and technical requirements. He also serves as owner’s representative for renovations of existing facilities and new construction. In 2005 the University of Miami School of Architecture honored him with the Faculty Award for Outstanding Contribution as lecturer in Theatre Management. “I am very proud of the many years spent at downtown Miami’s Gusman Center for the Performing Arts and even more proud to be part of the Pinecrest Gardens family.” Other accomplishments include opening The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts as Production Manager and The Aventura Arts and Cultural Center in 2011. Jerry, a Florida native from St. Augustine, proudly served in the United States Naval Air from 1966-1969.


Julie Durstine
Julie began her career with the Village of Pinecrest in 2005 where she served as the Administrative Assistant to the Parks and Recreation Director. In 2010 she transferred to Pinecrest Gardens where she now serves as the Assistant to the Pinecrest Gardens Director responsible for the management and reporting of all Pinecrest Gardens grants, budget monitoring and management, as well as being the key administrative employee for all personnel, finance and day to day administrative operations of the Garden. Prior to joining the Village staff, she worked at Florida International University in the divisions of Student Affairs and Athletics. Ms. Durstine holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Florida International University. “I love the transformation this Garden has gone through during the past 15 years I have been with the Village and I am so very excited to be part of the upcoming projects and changes that are yet to come.”

It takes a village to grow a garden
Harvey Bernstein.

Harvey Bernstein
Harvey is Horticulturist for the Village of Pinecrest. “I use my extensive working knowledge of many plant groups, particularly tropicals, palms and cycads, succulents and xerophytes, aquatics and natives to improve the diversity, health and beauty of the plant collections at Pinecrest Gardens.” A Miami Beach native, he comes to the Village from Chicago, where he was the Curator of Collections for the Chicago Park District, responsible for the planting design and horticultural planning for two historic conservatories. Before Chicago, Harvey worked as a Curatorial Associate at the San Diego Botanic Garden, Curator of Herbaceous Monocots at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Imaging Specialist at Montgomery Botanical Center. Harvey has owned and operated a tropical plant nursery, an art gallery, a fine art/architectural photography studio, and an historic art deco hotel.

Lacey Bray
Lacey joined Pinecrest Gardens as Educational Programs Coordinator in the fall of 2016. Her responsibilities at The Garden include development of the programs, workshops, field trips, camps, school outreach, management of the Sensory and Learning Garden, and more. Her focus is to build a bridge between The Garden and the greater community. Lacey’s educational background is in Environmental Studies and her trained profession is in Public Gardens and Garden Management. “Working at Pinecrest Gardens allows me to pursue my passion for gardening and teaching others about the environment.” In addition to being an educator, Lacey is a beekeeper, and manages beehives locally. At her apiary, she welcomes people to learn about pollinator friendly gardening, honey tasting and hosts hive tours. She also writes the Garden’s blog, Digging Pinecrest. “Outside of work, you can find me in the kitchen creating new recipes, sipping wine or spending way too much time lost in my newest hobby, my home garden.”

Elis Miralles
Elis has been key in both the development and management of Gardens’ festivals and festivities as the Programs and Events Coordinator since 2014, but her tenure dates back to 2011, when she joined #teampinecrest as a Park Service Aide. “I fell in love immediately with Pinecrest Gardens and the amazing cultural initiatives that have earned us the title of “South Florida’s Cultural Arts Park.” In 2013, she was promoted to Assistant Events Coordinator and a year later, to the Program and Event Coordinator position. “I love the complexity of my job managing events ranging in size from 100 to up to 12 thousand guests. Currently, I divide my work time between planning and executing events and creating our content and messaging for the amazing world of Social Media.”

Maria del Pilar Andujar
Maria is the Administrative Clerk at Pinecrest Gardens. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, at a young age she developed a passion for nature, photography and world travel. She obtained a Marketing degree and considers herself lucky to be employed by American Airlines, The Nature Conservancy and to be a freelance photographer. “In my current position at the Village of Pinecrest – Pinecrest Gardens, I have been able to use my photography and customer service skills to benefit the community I serve.”

It takes a village to grow a garden
Jerry Hills.

Jerry Hills
Jerry joined Pinecrest Gardens as a part time Park Service Aid working as a stagehand in the Banyan Bowl. Last month Jerry was promoted to Recreation Specialist looking after garden upkeep and assisting in daily operations. Jerry has more than five years of experience managing a profitable LLC called “The Love Below” and has also run a successful radio show and podcast. “I am so blessed to be a part of the Gardens family, but my secret passion is raising money for several disaster relief charities including Project Hope.”

Finally, I’m Alana Perez, and this is my extraordinary staff. Their love of this garden inspires me every day and makes me a better person. I call Pinecrest Gardens my last best job and thank God everyday for the joy this place brings to my life. Briefly, I joined the Village of Pinecrest as Pinecrest Gardens Director in April 2010. A native of Chicago, Illinois, I earned a BS in Speech Education and Music and a MA in Theater, both from Northwestern University. Prior to joining the Village staff, I was the International Marketing Consultant for the not-for-profit Musicians Without Borders. My career, spanning more than five decades, includes being a part of the sales staff at CBS Television Station Group, Midwest Sales Manager for the John Blair Company’s Television Syndication Division, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at World Sports Enterprises, President and Executive Creative Director of one of the European offices of D’Arcy Macius Benton and Bowles (DMB&B Advertising), and Marketing Director at Florida Grand Opera.


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