The Biscayne Times

Jan 18th
Parks in Small Packages PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
January 2018

Miami tries to make the most of mini greenspace 

PParkPatrol_1arkland is a rare asset in the City of Miami, so much so that even areas less than a half-acre should be cherished. What the city does with these little plots of dirt and trees determines whether the park is a success.

One success is Belle Meade Mini Park, located on NE 77th Street. This kid-friendly, Upper Eastside park is just the right place for elementary schoolers to release steam. The site, at just 0.42 acres, houses two well-worn playgrounds: one with a set of four swings; the other with a unit comprising three slides, climbing stations, a seesaw, and a near life-size bouncy “Jeep” that can hold a gaggle of youngsters. Rubber safety surfaces and overhead shade covers protect both play areas.

Parents might be tempted to just drop off their brood at this safely fenced-in neighborhood park, which is accessed from Biscayne Boulevard via the NE 76th Street guard gate, but they’re cautioned against it. There are two entrances, one at NE 77th Terrace and one at NE 77th Street, where a sign posted in English and Spanish reads: Do not leave children unattended on playground equipment. Mom and Dad can supervise play from one of several nearby metal benches or two picnic tables, and even grill an early supper on the city-provided barbecues. They can bring along the pooch, too, but he must stay leashed.


There’s still room left over to enjoy a bit of nature at Belle Meade Mini Park, which has oaks, royal poinciana, silver dollar, and various palms. Some trees are braced, possibly due to Hurricane Irma. The BT counted seven 44-gallon rubber trash cans for this tiny park, so there’s no excuse to litter. There aren’t assigned parking spaces, but parking’s possible on the wide adjacent streets.

North of Belle Meade Mini Park, in the Shorecrest neighborhood, is a 0.35-acre patch called Little River Pocket Park. This city park gets high marks for its fine view of 100 feet of waterfront. But the rest of it is does not.

Little River Pocket Park was founded in April 2012 in order to quell a nearby homeless-sex-offender squatting problem. Former City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff used the vacant city-owned land to create a 2500-foot, sex-offender-free zone. Now there are other issues to address.


There’s no designated parking; park at your own risk along the bordering hair-pin curve of narrow NE Little River Drive. Posted park rules need updating, as they state that domesticated animals are prohibited. In an e-mail exchange with Lara de Souza, deputy director of Miami Parks and Recreation, she acknowledges the signage problem: “This is an older park sign and I have requested our new signs to be installed at this location. We allow dogs on leash in our parks.” The BT also asked about any park plans to install a pet waste station with a bag dispenser. “At this current time, I am not aware of a schedule to install a pet waste station, but we can look into it,” says de Souza.

In addition to the view, other pluses are the three Paris Outdoor Fitness machines mounted on raised concrete pads, and the huge ficus that gives some shade. There are several mature and immature coconut palms and lots of ferns. But if you want to meditate and take in that lovely river view, there’s nothing to sit on. The lone bench is over at the street entrance. Another trash bin is needed, as there are only two. Two bouncy animals on a mud-and-sand surface constitute the playground.

But the “king” of flaws in this little park with a ton of potential is its problem with autumn king tides, which in November 2016, and September and October of 2017 flooded the park and surrounding neighborhood. So did Hurricane Irma.


Dylan Camp, a psychology student at Miami-Dade College, often visits the park with his 12-year-old lab mix Oreo. He lives nearby and likes to launch a kayak from the riverbank here. “Little River Drive was a river during Irma and the king tides,” he tells the BT. He and his mom moved their vehicles to higher ground and nearly had to move their home furnishings into storage. “This area floods even during a regular full moon,” he adds. Camp is actually a glass-half-full kind of guy, reluctant to complain and hopeful the city can do something about flooding.

One thing the city can do is complete the seawall along the park’s waterfront. When boats pass, they push river water up the unprotected banks and into the park. There are two storm drains in the park and one by an empty lot across the street, though high tides often gurgle up through them.


But help is on the way. Resilient Greater Miami and the Beaches was formed in 2016 and selected to join the national 100 Resilient Cities program to respond to major challenges in Miami-Dade County, including sea rise and flooding.

Jane Gilbert, chief resilience officer for the city’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability (there are also officers for the county and Miami Beach, all funded by the Rockefeller Foundation), tells the BT that there’s a strong level of commitment for Shorecrest flood mitigation.

In November 2017, voters endorsed a $400 million Miami Forever general obligation bond proposed by Resilient GM&B; half of that money will be dedicated to sea level rise and local flooding. “Bond money and other funding are aimed to go to the Shorecrest area,” says Gilbert.

In mid-December 2017, the city put out for a request for proposals for an engineering firm to come up with short-term and mid-term solutions for seawall standards, road elevations, and storm drains. Gilbert is aware of the incomplete seawall in Little River Pocket Park.

“There may be need to redesign the park to absorb rather than defend it [from flooding],” she says. The Resilient GM&B, partnering with the Parks Departments and Public Works, already has a “resilient redesign” for Shorecrest.


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Belle Meade Mini Park
775 NE 77th St.
Miami, FL 33138

Park Rating


Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Picnic Tables: Yes
Barbecues: Yes
Picnic pavilions: No
Tennis Courts: No
Athletic Fields: No
Night lighting: Yes
Swimming pool: No
Playground: Yes





Little River Pocket Park
1000 NE Little River Dr.
Miami, FL 33138

Park Rating


Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Picnic Tables: No
Barbecues: No
Picnic pavilions: No
Tennis Courts: No
Athletic Fields: No
Night lighting: No
Swimming pool: No
Playground: Not really


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