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Renovations and Rebirth PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
July 2019

Charles Hadley Park becomes a neighborhood’s shining star

WParkPatrol_1est of I-95 in the middle of Liberty City, there is a 29.7-acre friend to its community.

Once called Manor Park, in a Miami neighborhood recently renamed Model City (although any resident will tell you they live in Liberty City), Charles Hadley Park at 1300 NW 50th St. is a place that values its area’s youth, as well as its seniors. It’s a place that develops sports skills and fitness, as well as academic and creative success. But the park’s current amenities and those under reconstruction have been a long time coming.

Just ask local youth football coach and Miami rapper Luther Campbell -- a.k.a. Uncle Luke of 2 Live Crew. In 2005 he began an influence campaign to refurbish the park’s worn-out athletic fields and create a safe-haven youth center for the community. It took a final push by then newly elected Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon in 2013 to secure additional funds needed to proceed.

Construction of the Samuel K. Johnson Youth Center began in mid-2014, and the $6.3 million, 22,000-square-foot facility opened in January 2017. It is named for the late Miami-Dade County bus driver and Little League baseball coach with whom Campbell co-founded the Liberty City Optimist Club in 1990.

ParkPatrol_2Together Johnson and Campbell developed the park’s athletic programs, including the Liberty City Warriors youth football, part of Pop Warner Football. According to Campbell, the park’s sports programs have produced more than 50 NCAA and NFL athletes. Sadly, Johnson passed away in 2011 before he could see the Youth Center realized.

Warriors of Liberty City, a six-part documentary series co-produced by LeBron James, aired on the Starz Channel in 2018. One big takeaway of the film is how this youth football is more than a sports program -- it’s a toddler-to-teen mentorship.

In the first episode, Campbell explains the effect the sports programs have had on the Liberty City neighborhood: “I grew up in this park, eight blocks from my house. It was full of gangs. When we put the Warriors out here, the gang members backed off because their little brothers and sisters were out here. This park became sacred ground.”

The Youth Center features an indoor basketball court, a weight room supplemented with stationary bikes and treadmills, locker rooms, and classrooms for an academic after-school and tutoring program led by Miami-Dade public school teachers. Summer camp activities are also held in the classrooms.

ParkPatrol_3Yolanda Bethune, Liberty City Optimist Club program director, tells the BT that the Optimists, the Department of Children and Families, and the Children’s Trust fund these programs. She also points out a special Adidas MakerLab built by the sportswear giant inside the Youth Center, which has Apple computers and silkscreen stations for design and creative arts classes. Everything in this building is provided free to the public. 

Several basketball teams practice and hold games at the facility, as well as cheerleading, dance, volleyball, and gymnastics teams. The Youth Center is open 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and has its own parking lot located on NW 50th Street.

Just outside the Youth Center is a new playground with four slides, swings, and climbers, erected on a safety flooring and protected with sunshades. A new outdoor fitness zone was built nearby for adults to enjoy. Two solar-powered FPL Solar Now benches provide visitors the chance to charge up their devices.

In 2003 the Carrie P. Meek Senior Center opened at Hadley Park, a 21,700-square-foot facility that offers a wide range of activities and amenities. There’s a large meeting room, a computer center, a fitness-workout room, administrative offices, and an outdoor garden for growing vegetables and flowers. Aerobics, sewing and crafts, line dancing, and computer classes are offered free to those 50 and older. The senior center is open Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

ParkPatrol_4On the south end of the park, the Miller J. Dawkins Olympic Pool Complex has been undergoing renovations; construction is anticipated to be completed sometime this summer. Total cost of repairs, resurfacing of all pools, new diving boards, pool decks, studies, and design is $757,644. There is an Olympic-size 50-meter pool, a 33-meter recreation pool, a children’s pool, a bath house with locker rooms, and offices. Swim lessons and water aerobics are offered. The pool parking lot is located on NW 12th Avenue.

Also happening this summer, construction should begin on the park’s football field. In an e-mail exchange with the BT, John Heffernan, deputy director of the Office of Communications for the City of Miami, writes, “The scope of work includes a multi-purpose synthetic turf field with new LED sports lighting, reconfiguration of walkways, bike racks, trash receptacles, four-foot high chain-link fencing around the field, a new scoreboard, and security lighting.” Funds totaling $2,688,650 for this project have been secured.

On Earth Day 2018, recycling bins were added to Charles Hadley Park in several locations as part of the Keep Miami Beautiful program. They are stationed in front of the Youth Center, the pool, and the Senior Center. Bins were funded with a grant from the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.

ParkPatrol_5Other athletic activities are also given their own spots in the park. Skateboarders and in-line skaters can use a “skating ring” -- an asphalt circuit around metal bleachers kept shaded by some of the park’s plentiful mature, leafy trees. There are handball courts on the park’s western edge, a fenced-in tennis court complex, eight outdoor basketball courts, and a baseball field. Soccer is also played on one of the athletic fields.

Worn-out sodding in high-traffic areas continues to be an issue at Charles Hadley Park, but the planned walkways should help to mitigate that problem. Only one pet waste station could be found, and it was without plastic bags -- a couple of more stations would be ideal.

 

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Park_map

Charles Hadley Park
1300 NW 50th St.
Miami, FL 33142
305-960-4630


Park Rating
palm-1 palm-1 palm-1 palm-05 palm-0


Hours:
 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Picnic Tables
: Yes
Barbecues: No
Picnic pavilions: No
Tennis courts: Yes
Athletic fields: Yes
Swimming pool: Yes
Night lighting: Yes
Playground: Yes

 

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