Parks and Recreation — Miami deserves better

Parks and Recreation — Miami deserves better

Grapeland Water Park

Parents and politicians are sometimes brought to Earth by this: Do as I say, not as I do. This is the Hypocritical Oath, not the Hippocratic one, which is far nobler.

My friend and colleague Aldo Regalado has called me an elitist and he holds a doctoral degree, which must make his comments true. But there is always a fine line between what we like, what’s good for us, and what is actually good. Surely, we can all agree on the merits and characteristics of a fine park, right?

My interest was piqued by an upcoming art event, which will be held on Aug. 29 starting at 8 p.m. at Grapeland Water Park. All the things kids like are in the mix here. You can pay a five spot, sit in a pool and chill while you watch Disney’s Planes. I hadn’t heard of the film, so I looked it up. Even kids called this Disney film a dud. But I digress.

Dive-In Movies take place on the last Friday of the month at Grapeland near the airport and are sponsored by the City of Miami Parks & Recreation Department. Admission is $5, which seems like a good deal for almost everyone. In addition, the slide pools open at 5:30 and stay open till 7:30, when everyone can go to Captain’s Lagoon, the primary pool, and relax in the water and watch the film.

The entrance to the park sports a big Romero Britto sculpture and the interior fountains, slides, umbrellas and more all share this signature style, Miami’s own Leroy Nieman, for those of you who remember his work. On this former dumpsite, Britto and the city make kids happy.

Now that I’m done shilling for the city, let me get to the nitty-gritty. We deserve so much better. This is in no way intended to disparage Mr. Britto; sorry haters – not interested. However, let me get this out of the way: I live in Miami and I am mostly happy. I respect all the good people who work hard to make our lives better, happier, more artistic, more athletic, more enjoyable and more aesthetic. I do, I really do. I’ve got no beef. We have some good things going on. But that’s it! We may have an eye for beauty, but we have none for ugliness. Our parks are a laughingstock.

Parks and Recreation — Miami deserves better

Park am Geisdreieck

We are supposed to be a world-class city, but I have seen world class, and Miami, we are not a world-class city. I am not faulting anyone trying to improve the art, the food, the drink, the design or the sounds of the city, but then again, we deserve better. I often write about Miami’s fine arts and art scene, but our parks? Lord have mercy on us.

There has been recent talk about something or other running beneath the Metrorail that mentions Manhattan’s High Line in its initial descriptions. Point blank — I’m all for it. In the meantime, however, we have some sorry excuses for parks all over the county and we would be ashamed, I suppose, if we knew any better.

I spent the summer in Europe. Those public spaces in Berlin, my friends, are parks. I might say at this point that Grapeland Water Park has a concession stand, as does my nearby Coral Reef Park and Suniland, which I also frequent. The food, however, is a few notches below McDonald’s and maybe one above a school lunch that features ketchup as a vegetable. It begs two questions: Why do we settle for such garbage and how did our taste stray so far from any decency. It seems that every park in Germany has a restaurant at least as good as Matheson Hammock’s Red Fish Grill, and always at half the price with a fine half-liter beer always available for less than $5.

While I’m venting, why can’t Matheson Hammock, with its multimillion-dollar views and billion-dollar location, clean the rust, filth, and stench from its bath and changing rooms? Mayor Gimenez can’t find the money? Moreover, can’t somebody clean the filthy sand and spruce that baby up? Can’t we find some manner in which we stop complaining about government and fund some improvements to this dirty eyesore? Is it only about the fees? This is Miami, bigtime tourist destination in the United States of America. Really, how has this park and so many others unraveled so badly?

Parks in Germany have table tennis courts, foosball, skate parks, basketball courts, beach volleyball, cafés, flower gardens, rose gardens, vegetable gardens, rock gardens, water pumps, climbing equipment, swings, trampolines. What do they have that we don’t have? Is it taste? Is it will? Is it an absence of lawyers?

This is an art column, or at least it’s supposed to be, and I would prefer to talk about all good artistic things, and I will again soon, but our public expectation is too low and someone must awaken the sleeping masses. We deserve better.

Carl Rachelson is a teacher at Palmer Trinity School and a regular contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune. He may be contacted by addressing email to

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