|Gone to the Dogs|
|Written by Jim W. Harper|
At East Greynolds Park, that’s a good thing
Pigs who prefer mud will feel quite at home in the only official doggie park along Biscayne Boulevard. But don’t worry – the dogs only bring their people to this park. No pigs allowed.
The Miami-Dade County Northeast Regional Dog Park opened last year inside East Greynolds Park, located east of Biscayne Boulevard, north of Oleta State Park, and not far from the 870-year-old St. Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal church, commonly known as the Ancient Spanish Monastery. The doggie park was an instant hit and fills up every afternoon with our four- and two-legged friends. The summer rains, however, have brought muddy puddles and hungry mosquitoes to the fenced-in realm.
Outside the doggie sector, East Greynolds is a pleasant mix of thick brush, open grass, and fishing spots. A concrete bridge extends across a canal on the park’s southern border, and a designated fishing dock sits adjacent to an artificial reef along the eastern edge. Across the way is a large, empty lot that seems popular with the homeless.
If you’re looking for the kiddie park or lakes or golf course, head up the Oleta River to the much larger Greynolds Park on W. Dixie Highway. Its eastern cousin, East Greynolds, has gone to the dogs – in a good way.
The park remains invisible from the Boulevard owing to its thick, natural canopy of live oaks surrounded by saw palmettos. Greeting you at the entrance is the Phantom Tollbooth, a little hut that remains empty on weekdays. Apparently on weekends (except if early or late in the day), an attendant magically appears to collect $5 per car.
The weekday fee is supposed to be $1 per hour for parking via a pay-and-display machine. At the tollbooth, a giant doggie-paw-print sign tries to guilt you into paying by reminding drivers that “your park fees help support the NE dog park.” The facility, designed by the county and championed by Commissioner Sally Heyman, cost nearly $200,000 to build.
Sprawling across 1.7 acres near the entrance, the dog park welcomes all well-behaved pooches, except for pit bulls and dogs in heat (check the “code of conduct” signs). A kind of lobby at the entrance deters unwanted canine encounters and offers two separate portals: a large area for large dogs and a small area for the teacup varieties.
Inside the Chihuahua pen, little Yorkies scoot around like floating wigs, and short-haired mutts get busy with their pee-mail. There’s a little sidewalk loop, but otherwise the action here is limited.
Inside the big-dog pen are the main attractions. Fire hydrants beckon and open spaces call for unlimited off-leash romps. Humans have a few canopies for shade and several picnic benches scattered about – even a barbecue grill for “hot” dogs.
The aquatic features seem mostly unplanned. Puddles clog several of the grassy areas and make for a big fat muddy mess. Fortunately there are several options for pooch bathing – a hose, a tub on the sidewalk, and the pièce de résistance – the doggie shower. When I pressed the silver shower button and water sprayed out of the green monster, my little dog Pepe was terrified, even though in his mind he remains a big dog. The dog shower may be an example of unsuccessful anthropomorphizing. Everyone knows that dogs prefer baths.
Behind the doggie playground is another fenced-in area known as Buttonwood Camp. Patronized by Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, this hidden hammock offers primitive tent camping for $5 per person daily.
The shoreline beyond the camp and along the park’s eastern edge peers at condos in the distance across expansive Maule Lake. This misnomer is actually a saltwater lagoon that connects to the Oleta River and the Intracoastal Waterway. Mangroves crowd the shoreline and have created a few patchy islands just offshore.
Next to the park’s large picnic pavilion are oversized barbecue grills, perfect for that 102-ounce steak. But as the sign says, try not to feed the park’s raccoons and stray cats. You are free, however, to feed the homeless, who may settle in at the pavilion after hours.
One of the park’s finest features is the wooden fishing dock and picnic bench overlooking Oleta River and Maule Lake. Across the river on its eastern shore sits a separate, 3.5-acre woodsy section of East Greynolds Park, but it appears to be accessible only by boat. The brackish water here could host manatees or a stray dolphin or two, but the most common critters are insects. Bring your bug spray.
An accessible area of Australian pines lies across the canal but is not park of the park. It stretches as far as the adult entertainment center Solid Gold. Closer to the park and on the Boulevard is a celebrity eatery that may never be: D. Wade’s Sports Grill and Lounge. Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade is caught up in lawsuits relating to two failed restaurants in Broward and Palm Beach counties bearing his name, so don’t count on eating at this unfinished joint.
But the fish and ducks never stop eating. Bring some crumbs along to feed the resident white duck of East Greynolds. Bring your fishing pole and stake out one of the prime fishing spots along the concrete bridge that divides the freshwater Snake Creek Canal from the salty Oleta River/Maule Lake. You could even launch your canoe or kayak nearby.
The remainder of the park is divided between a broad grassy field and thick native plants with walking trails winding through them, although there are some invasive Brazilian pepper plants scattered about. In between are the restrooms, where I found a Guinness beer bottle balancing on top of the urinal. Could it have been put there by a misbehaving Marmaduke?
East Greynolds is really a dog park with human zones on the side. My dog Pepe gave it five paws. I wanted to agree, but I was wearing shorts. Ten fleas and 200 mosquitoes later, I decided that my next visit will be in long pants.
Volume 12, Issue 8. October 2014
The Smithsonian honors a local documentary photographer
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