The Biscayne Times

Aug 05th
Curb Your Dog or Pay the Price PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wendy Doscher-Smith -- BT Contributor   
May 2013

For many, it’s time to get serious about dog poop at Pace Park

OPacePark_1ne of the Biscayne Corridor’s most heavily used parks is in the middle of a battle, and it’s not mud folks are slinging. It’s poop. Dog poop, to be exact.

Since it reopened in 2003, after an extreme $4 million makeover, Margaret Pace Park has had a magnetic pull on residents of the towering condominium buildings that ring its western perimeter. The park’s waterfront location at 1745 N. Bayshore Dr. provides sweeping vistas across Biscayne Bay, and though it encompasses just eight acres, a lot of amenities have been packed into it: two tennis courts, kids play areas, volleyball and basketball courts, picnic tables and grills, waterfront walks, open green spaces, and three elaborate “thrones” evoking Jewish, Spanish, and African-American heritages that have influenced South Florida -- a public-art project by New World School of the Arts students.

To say that Pace Park is popular would be an understatement. While no statistics are available, the number of people who visit in any given week is off the charts. From morning till late at night, the place is a beehive of activity. One of the most popular activities seems to be dog owners letting their pets exercise, mingle with other canines, and answer nature’s call. That last has become a source of friction.

Some people, it seems, do not always pick up the poop after their dogs relieve themselves. In a small park with an even smaller area where dogs can play, it doesn’t take many irresponsible people to cause a lot of problems. Regular park visitors worry about the grounds being contaminated by dog feces.

“The basic problem is they have bags to put the poo in, but people don’t use them,” says Juan Diaz, a nearby resident and parkgoer. “When they mow the lawn, it spreads and kids play on the lawn. It’s very unhealthy.”

PacePark_2Dog poop is one of the major issues that plague dog owners in condos, says Maida Genser, a Tamarac resident and founder of Citizens for Pets in Condos, adding that the problems at Margaret Pace Park are “nothing new.” The position of Citizens for Pets in Condos, Genser says, is that responsible pet owners and animal guardians should be allowed to keep their animals. Owners must be considerate of others, though. “So-called animal issues are almost always people issues,” Genser says. “It’s important to properly take care of your animals and make sure they’re not a nuisance to other people. Part of responsible pet ownership is cleaning up their waste products and training them to avoid nuisance behavior.”

Last year Diana Fontani, a resident of the condominium complex known as Cité, across the street from Pace Park, became so annoyed by the “waste products” littering the park she organized a petition drive asking for an enclosed dog run, which the park does not have. She secured more than 150 signatures (most from dog owners) and contacted the office of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose district includes the park. Fontani asked for help establishing a dog run separate from other areas of the park.

A meeting organized by Sarnoff’s office and the OMNI/Midtown Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) was held this past March to discuss the pros and cons of a fenced-in dog area. Says Pieter Bockweg, executive director of the OMNI/Midtown CRA: “We very quickly found out that there were several opinions about the park and that we needed to discuss the fenced-in play area.”

One result of the meeting: a six-month education campaign, geared to teaching people about the importance of curbing their dogs, as well as the laws against not doing that.

Park regulars acknowledge that the dog-poop scofflaws are small in number, but they can be a big headache. Many say they’ve approached perpetrators only to be ignored or cursed.

PacePark_3Cité resident Veronica Wolan takes her two Boston terriers to the park at least twice daily. She asserts there are not enough poop bags, and recently had to leave her dog with someone else while she ran to get a bag to pick up her dog’s feces. (Wolan also once followed a woman who did not clean up after her dog, did the job herself, and then handed the woman her dog’s bagged poop.)

Another park regular, Eduardo Itriago, who lives across the street in the high-rise condo Quantum on the Bay, says he doubts that building an enclosed dog run will deter people from leaving behind their dog’s waste. “I have a rule,” Itriago says. “I check my shoes before I go home.”

Jaime Blanco, who lives in the adjacent 1800 Club condo, has seen traces of feces throughout his building. Blanco thinks a dog run will make the park ugly, but says he understands the necessity.

The first phase of Bockweg’s marketing initiative includes the distribution of pamphlets and cards that will be handed out and left at every building in the park’s vicinity, in an effort to get the word out about proper curbing and off-leash procedures.

One of Fontani’s complaints is that “many individuals that live at the Grand, Opera, and Quantum never received a notice of the March 13 meeting.” Fontani has now offered to assist in the outreach for the next meeting, and Bockweg says it’s one of his priorities. “I’m going to go to every single building in the Margaret Pace Park area,” he vows.

Among the flyer’s points: Dog waste is the third-largest contributor to contaminated water; parasites can be transmitted by dog feces and infect other dogs and people; Miami-Dade County will fine people $50 for not curbing their dogs, and at Margaret Pace Park the fine could be as high as $200. Parkgoers are also encouraged to limit their dog’s activities to the northern portion of the park, to keep dogs leashed at all times, and to maintain vaccinations.

Seven additional poop-bag dispensers with garbage cans are being procured as well, Bockweg says. In addition, the City of Miami’s parks and recreation department is now involved, as is the police department, which has been put on notice to watch for rule-breakers.

This summer another meeting will be held, says Bockweg, in order to determine what’s been accomplished and which steps need to be taken next.

Meanwhile, the OMNI/Midtown CRA is also considering plans for an expanded kids’ play area. How big an expansion is yet to be determined and will be based on a cost analysis, Bockweg says: “We spent money to make sure we provide shade for kids and put in AstroTurf, which is better from a maintenance standpoint. The size of the expansion will depend on the overall expansion and of the fenced-in dog area.”

For her part, Fontani is optimistic. “I am just glad the issue didn’t die at the March meeting,” she says.

Historical footnote: The park was created in the late 1960s and named in honor of Margaret Pace, who was not, as widely believed, the founding president of the Miami Women’s Club. (The club’s grand headquarters abuts the park’s southern border and is on the National Register of Historical Places.) According to a 1977 column in the Miami News known as “Why Is It Called…,” Pace was “deeply devoted to this area’s nature and history…. Mrs. Pace, wife of Johnson Pace, was a founder and past president of the Miami Garden Club. She was chairwoman of Royal Palm State Park, which was given by the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs to the government as part of Everglades National Park.”


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