The Sad State of Chapman Field Park

Miami's Community Newspapers
Vice Mayor (Village of Pinecrest) Anna Hochkammer

Miami-Dade County has turned Chapman Field Park into a post-apocalyptic dump contaminated by arsenic, overgrown by invasive species and mostly unusable by us, its owners.  483 acres of our precious waterfront parkland and mangroves have been mismanaged into disaster. 

The 1972 county “Decades of Progress” bonds funded the construction of three lighted baseball fields, batting cages and and related facilities at Chapman Field Park.  In 2014, arsenic contamination forced the closure of those fields, displacing the Howard Palmetto ball leagues and the Miami Palmetto Senior High School baseball team.  The high school team has since found a new home at Palmetto Bay’s Coral Reef Park, while the Howard Palmetto leagues have been making do at other area ball fields and losing participants.  Local families looking for baseball and softball programs are driving deep into Kendall looking for playing fields. 

A sad dog park devoid of shade, trees or seating and without water for human and canine visitors is half-heartedly operating in the park.  That area is covered with signage warning visitors about crocodiles. 

A public meeting hosted by the County’s Parks and Recreation department at the Deering Estate on December 18, 2018 painted a stark and sad portrait of Chapman Field Park’s future.  They foresee spending $3 million over the next two years to remediate the arsenic contamination in just one ball field, rebuild that field, fix up the wonky parking lot next to it and run some water down to a dog drinking fountain in the County’s sad, strange dog park.  They will use a small part of the funds to chop down the trees that have grown up in the other playing fields so that it looks less overgrown, but that’s it for the rest of the baseball facilities.

Those other fields may or may not be remediated at some undetermined date in a hypothetical “Phase II” because no master plan for the park has been drawn up and no funding sources for any improvements are available.  What a sad state of affairs.

Many residents are melancholy about losing the baseball and softball culture that used to be so strong down here is South Dade.  I feel their pain.  I played softball all through the childhood and on my high school team.  It was a great experience for me and a nexus of connection and community for my neighbors.  The local municipalities are doing what they can to fill the void, but space for ball fields is hard to come by in established communities. 

The worst part of this mess is that it is self-inflicted.  The County did this to itself.  Scientists from DERM believe that the most likely source of contamination by arsenic in the fields was from a herbicide the County used for years to maintain the fields.  In fact, they now know that countywide there is a correlation between baseball fields and arsenic contamination.  So the County literally poisoned itself.

At the same time, County mismanagement of our gorgeous valuable public spaces has reached its most shocking and depressing state over at Chapman Field Park.  Years of bad budgeting, messed up priorities and ignoring the things that make a community livable and joyous have resulted in one of our most valuable resources being useless and unusable. 

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  1. Add it to the growing list of languishing park and recreation facilities in greater Miami. Marine Stadium, Matheson Hammock, Chapman Field, etc..

  2. It’s despicable that they cannot remove the contaminated dirt place barrier refill grade and
    Redo the fields. It’s not rocket science it’s fsurlt simple. Derm knows exactly what needs to be done
    And the county should find it really they make drvflopersxdo it all the time someone at the county needs to step up to the plate !

  3. The Palmetto High team had moved long before 2014. It is a shame about Chapman, and I’m no expert, but I would agree with Dara Vorce. It doesn’t seem like that hard of a job. But I understand if there’s no funds at the moment. Why don’t we do it through volunteer work? I would volunteer for this cause.

  4. Great article, Anna Hochkammer!
    How shameful of the County to allow this to happen. How many centuries has it been known that arsenic is a deadly poison and yet they used it! Where is the accountability for that malfeasance? The weeds and invasives should be removed by mechanical means; not by poisoning the environment!
    The County cares only for development at the expense of the natural environment.
    The condition of Chapman Field Park is indisputable evidence. Please use your position to pressure the County. Please sponsor a resolution to send a clear message to the County that this state of affairs is unacceptable and make sure that your City Council does not mince words.

  5. so now we know that the fields and the rest of the park have been contaminated for who the hell knows how long. so when is the first law suite against the county for some or many health problems going to be filed? lots of kids and adults played on those contaminated fields for years. I played on those fields and i coached girls softball there also. my daughter played there a lot. can someone please tell me if only one field is “fixed” how do you expect people,kids and dogs to go anywhere near the still contaminated places. i sure won’t & i don’t think anyone should be on the “fixed” field while the contaminated ones are within walking and breathing distance of each other. another words this ain’t never going to get fixed until ALL of the contamination is taken care of. this is just another one of the counties projects on how to really waste lots of our $$ and not get the job done right!!

  6. Don’t feel too bad…at least you still have the land that made up the park, even though you can’t use it!

    In my neighborhood, our wonderful county commissioners, in all their infinite wisdom have allowed three (3) golf courses that were all once zoned as recreational land to be converted into thousands of single family and town home residences.

    This resulted in a loss of over 600 acres of recreational land within a 3 square mile area!

    What did we get in return…two five acre pieces of land categorized as an active park, and a passive park, with no parking, or access to them other than on foot!

    Access to these “parks” is by entering through a gated private community, that grudgingly has to let us use the so called parks in their community!

    Oh, did I mention the tremendous increase in traffic, due to the fact that our wonderful building, and zoning departments did not feel that wider roads were necessary to accommodate the thousands of new cars on our roads!

    The county loves all those new dollars flowing in from the newly generated property taxes, which unfortunately are not allocated to create a better park and recreation system.

    If you have not realized it already, the residents of Miami-Dade County have one of the crappiest park systems in the state, where the priority seems to be putting down asphalt, cement, and concrete, rather than preserving anything green!

    I actually drive to Palm Beach County, so I can walk around in a park that is not just a flat treeless wasteland used for soccer, or softball, where I can view wildlife like deer, and gopher tortoises, and not run into any noisy and pesky humans!

    Other than our National Parks and Preserves, I challenge anyone to name a park in Miami-Dade County where you can view wildlife, and get away from humanity for awhile!

  7. Anna Hochkammer,Please keep the pressure on the County!Your strength is needed to get this park cleaned up and beautiful for all to enjoy, including shade and water for dogs!


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