For more than six years, historic Chapman Field Park’s ballfields sat in disrepair. The park’s three fields shut down in 2014 after soil samples showed elevated levels of arsenic. The community was told it would be a temporary closure, taking no more than six months to fix. Pristine fields rotted while politicians and bureaucrats salivated over a chance to change the dynamic of the park. Six years and two public meetings later and not a millimeter of progress has been made.
Pinecrest resident Ethan Shapiro created the Facebook group “Save Chapman Field Park”. With the help of his 12-year-old daughter Sarah he posted video of the three fields. In less than a week, the group ballooned to over 700 members. Pinecrest, Coral Gables, Palmetto Bay residents will rally to support the cleanup with a socially distant drive-by of Chapman Field Park on October 3rd from 9:30am – 11:30am.
“Save Chapman Field Park” has allowed members to share stories, dating all the way back to its founding in 1972. Sherry Speizer recalled “fond memories of my son Darren playing on Chapman Field Park and his mom proudly keeping score. Shame on the county for letting these fields go to rot!” Similar thoughts were echoed by Joan Rachlin, “Such fond memories, blown away with this site… shame shame on the County!” Manny Ferrero III, who started International Slow Pitch Softball at Chapman Field Park in 2008 in honor of his brother PFC Marius L. Ferrero, wrote, “the county should be ashamed that the BEST fields in Miami Dade county look like this. I have run softball events all over the world. This park now looks like a third-world country…not America!” The same question kept coming up online, how could the county let this happen to our beloved park?
Late 2014: The Miami-Dade County Division of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) takes the lead and works with the Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces (PROS) department on a Corrective Action Plan for three ball fields.
April 10th, 2015: Colin Henderson, Environmental Consultant with the PROS Capital Programs Division sent an email asking DERM to stop work: “There has been some internal discussions here about the use of the Chapman Field ball field area in that the use of the fields may change. Please hold off any work on the Corrective Action Plan until PROS decides what the future plans are going to be for the park.”
March 9th, 2016: Pablo Gonzalez, Engineering Section Head of the PROS Capital Program, and Colin Henderson came up with a plan to rip out fields 2 and 3, the batting cages funded by Howard Palmetto, light poles, fences, bleachers, etc. In its place would be a grass area surrounded by a concrete walkway. Had anyone from our community been there, we would have explained how top-notch ballfields are at a premium… how there are waiting lists for adult softball leagues…how the largest recreational youth baseball league in South Florida depended on the fields.
August 2016: Public meeting where the community rightfully told the county that they wanted three fields fixed.
September 8th, 2016: Pablo Gonzalez sent an email to Victor Mendez, an Engineer with DERM, asking him to put work on hold while the Parks Department “reached out to the local community and key individuals who participated in the first public meeting to create a sense of inclusion for the development of the new plan.” Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, presently a candidate for Miami-Dade County Commission District 7, passed a resolution in support of repairing the three fields.
May 2018: Colin Henderson proposed an idea to split the project. Phase 1 would fix one field and Phase 2 would address the other two later.
May of 2018: Cherokee Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), the engineering/contracting firm drafting the plans, points out that phasing remediation costs more money. The county continues ahead.
December 2018: The county holds a meeting at The Deering Estate and announces its intention to move forward with Phase 1. They had no plan for Phase 2.
November 2019: Progress hit a snag when DERM discovered high levels of arsenic in a septic tank used for the bathrooms.
May 18th, 2020: CEI submitted a 225-page Health and Safety Plan for the remediation of one ball field as part of Phase 1.
At present: The Parks Dept. maintains that they began a dry run process in August 2020 with the Miami-Dade County Building Department and the City of Coral Gables. They hope to put the project out for bid and award construction by March 2021. The County claims that construction will complete for just one field by August 2021.
This all could have been avoided. Three fields were on track to being fixed in early 2015, but we lost FIVE YEARS on the County’s fool’s errand. PROS staff and our Commissioner Xavier Suarez had no regard for the history, the legends that once roamed these fields, and the countless memories created at the park. They thought they could steal critical ball fields from our community. They failed our community. If elected as County Commissioner District 7, Former Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner has pledged that “repairing Chapman Field Park’s three fields will be a top priority… you will see action.” Only with better representation on the County Commission and the community’s help will our fields return to their former glory.