The Biscayne Times

Aug 11th
Applaud the Improvements PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
June 2019

Miami-Dade comes through for Biscayne Shores and Gardens Park

IParkPatrol_1n the wake of the 2010 census, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson visited Biscayne Shores and Gardens Park, which had been added to her redrawn District 3 boundaries. Her first visit left her shocked.

Edmonson found that the park’s trees hid people from view. Drug paraphernalia and condoms were everywhere -- “things that should never be in a park,” she recently recalled. Right then and there, she knew she wanted to go to bat for the surrounding community and make improvements.

In late April of this year, Edmonson, who currently serves as chairwoman of the county commission, was accompanied by county parks officials and local elected leaders to a ribbon-cutting ceremony and community celebration of the unveiling of modifications to the 6.5-acre greenspace.

“I’m overjoyed today to celebrate these beautiful park improvements,” she said at the event. “Parks play an important part in our neighborhoods. I wanted to make this a real, true park, and the Parks Department made it happen.”


Joining Chairwoman Edmonson at the event were Maria Nardi, director of Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation; Danny Barcia, superintendent of smaller Miami-Dade County parks; Willie Pena, parks construction project manager; Devin Davis, park manager of Biscayne Shores and Gardens Park; Victoria Galan, communications manager for the Parks Department; Maria Padron, special projects administrator for the Parks Department; Marta Martinez-Aleman, community affairs liaison for the county commissioner; landscape architect Douglas Thompson of LandscapeDE; and Miami Shores Village Councilwoman Alice Burch.

The new amenities include four wooden picnic tables, benches, trash receptacles, concrete walkways, access-control fencing and gates, and a 20-by-20-foot picnic pavilion built over a concrete slab and supported by South Florida oolite columns.

But the star addition at Biscayne Shores and Gardens Park is a new nature-inspired playground, built in the park’s eastern section, inspired by the natural environment to encourage kids to be outdoors.

“This is a gem in our system of playgrounds,” Maria Nardi told those at the ceremony. “It really is the first that features nature-based play to this extent. In this digital age, play is a way to reconnect kids to others, and we want to reconnect kids with nature through play.”


The 10,800-square-foot playground features landscaped earth mounds, boulders, and equipment by Kompan on a wood-chip flooring surface. Children can climb limestone blocks to reach the pinnacle of the central mound and an embankment slide. There is a climber dome, spring riders in the shape of insects, swings, and a wooden boat.

Landscaping around the play area is also thoughtfully designed. Douglas Thompson and Ebru Ozer, principals of LandscapeDE in South Miami, have creatively explored the human-nature connection through their biophilic design of the park improvements. Butterfly-friendly plants and many natives grace the earth mounds and surroundings: gumbo limbo, live oak, fakahatchee grass, pineland croton, milkweed, yellowtop, gamagrass, porterweed, Boston fern, and giant ironweed.

Only one tree -- a large ficus -- had to be removed, as it was failing and proved to be a danger. The innovative design team, along with the Stonehenge Construction crew, created what Nardi describes as “an outrageously gorgeous playground.”

But perhaps the most curious additions to the park, if not the coolest, are the sinker logs placed in a nook of the playground. Thompson tells the BT that he acquired these ancient cypress logs from one John Claytor of the Ocala-based Dead Head Logging. Claytor harvests these submerged logs -- some of them 1000 years old -- from north Florida waterways like the Suwannee and St. Johns Rivers, using side-scan sonar to locate them.


He goes on to explain that these were lost logs, cut by loggers in the late 19th century. In Florida’s pre-railroad days, logs were floated on rivers to sawmills. If the logs weren’t dry enough, they would sink, and over the years, the lack of oxygen and tannic waters preserved the wood, creating a lucrative underwater log recovery industry for those risking the hunt for the submerged cypress.

One of the park’s sinker logs looks like part of a prized “extreme log” -- more than 30 inches in diameter and 30 feet long. It’s a lesson in Florida history and a treasure for the Biscayne Shores community.

The cost of these recent improvements was $833,000, paid for by the Building Better Communities General Obligation Bond program. According to Victoria Galan, the park’s renovation was a six-month project, and the amenities have been enjoyed by the community since the first of the year.

The BT previously reviewed Biscayne Shores and Gardens Park (see “A Park with Potential,” October 2015) and described it as a fixer-upper, adding, “With some cash and elbow grease, the possibilities are there.” Graffiti, litter, swampy grass on its western half, lack of parking, and illegal drug use were issues; the county’s promises of improvements there were long awaited.


But as Nardi said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony: “A promise made, a promise delivered.” She also announced the upcoming groundbreaking on May 24 for a new community center.

Plans call for a 3013-square-foot facility that will house a multipurpose room, restrooms, a park staff office, and storage. A lighted parking lot for 20 vehicles, walkway lighting throughout the park, sidewalks, and additional landscaping will complete this development phase of Biscayne Shores and Gardens Park.

Willie Pena, who led the recent modifications there, notes that the cost for the community center construction came in at $1.23 million -- 33 percent below the original estimate -- and is funded by the GOB. Construction will be completed by the fall of 2020.

The county hopes the park will offer afterschool programs, youth summer camps, senior activities, and reserved weekend party rentals.

Park staff recognizes that these improvements don’t address the flooding issue on the park’s western half. Although the park is still a work in progress, the transformation of this once “forgotten” place is good news -- “our pride and joy,” says Nardi -- and timely, too, as Miami-Dade Parks celebrates its 90th anniversary.


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Biscayne Shores and Gardens Park
11525 NE 14th Ave.
Miami, FL 33161

Park Rating
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Sunrise to Sunset
Picnic Tables
: Yes
Barbecues: No
Picnic pavilions: Yes
Athletic fields: No
Swimming pool: No
Night lighting: No
Dog Park: No
Playground: Yes


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