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Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
May 2020

You’ll love Oak Grove Park

OParkPatrol_1n March 19, 2020, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued an emergency order, closing all parks, beaches, and recreational facilities in the county due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Social distancing” and “stay-at-home” are terms we now use in everyday conversations as we visit with friends and family, celebrate birthdays and holidays, hold business meetings, and go to school via Zoom online sessions. We get through it, sometimes kicking and screaming, but we are trying to get acquainted with the new normal as best we can.

When we get to the other side of this pandemic and it is declared safe again to venture outside to explore our parks, consider visiting Oak Grove Park in unincorporated Miami-Dade.

This 21.3-acre park is located between NE 6th Avenue and NE 8th Avenue from NE 155th Terrace to NE 159th Street. According to the Trust for Public Land, Oak Grove Park serves 8196 residents living within a ten-minute walk of the park. (In Miami, 86.2 per cent of residents live within a ten-minute walk of a park.)

ParkPatrol_2Three of the 21.3 acres constitute a hardwood hammock, thick with oak trees -- hence the park’s name. Native gumbo limbo and palms are also plentiful, and its five-acre lake is home to egrets, American white ibis, and friendly Muscovy ducks that follow visitors, hoping for an offered snack, even though the lake was like pea soup with algae in late March.

The leafy forest makes for a shaded stroll on the park’s winding concrete walkways around the lake, some of which were added or improved in 2015, along with new benches. The downside of all that shade is that grass won’t grow easily, and there are plenty of bald spots to be found.

A major park overhaul project began in 2017. The 20,000-square-foot Father Gerard Jean-Juste Community Center opened in April 2019, featuring multi-purpose rooms for meetings, activities, special events, and adult and after-school programs. Right next door is the new aquatic center, with a zero-depth splash pad, an 82-by-44-foot outdoor pool, a deck with lounge chairs and life guard station, and locker rooms with bathrooms and showers.

ParkPatrol_3Butterfly-friendly landscaping (there were many Julias and skippers enjoying available nectar in late March), lighting for walkways and parking lots, and a freestanding bathroom building with outdoor water fountains by the athletic field rounded out the $11-million construction project, which was paid for by the Building Better Communities General Obligation Bond Fund.

Also new to the park is a bejeweled gazebo erected on a concrete slab. Created by acclaimed Haitian-born American artist and Miami resident Edouard Duval-Carrié, it was donated by the county’s Art in Public Places program. Its exotic design has an attractive Far Eastern flair.

The 2019 Miami-Dade County press release announcing the community center’s grand opening included a description of a new 1200-square-foot band shell, but it was never constructed.

Speaking at the 2019 community center dedication ceremony, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime said, “This new state-of-the-art center is more than just a beautiful facility, it is a place where dreams live, and today we are living Gerry’s dream. He was ‘the people’s priest,’ an amazing man who devoted his entire life and work to help others.”

ParkPatrol_4The late Father Gerry was born in Haiti and became the first ordained Haitian Catholic priest in the United States. He founded Miami’s Haitian Refugee Center and was a well-known advocate for South Florida’s Haitian immigrant population.

Near the lake is a small playground with slides and swings, installed on a mostly sand surface. There is a narrow strip of safety flooring by a playground bench, but it appears more of an afterthought than something functional. An adult fitness zone with 12 exercise machines sits on a concrete pad. Three huge signs, one written in Creole, one in Spanish, and one in English explain the rules and etiquette required on the equipment.

No pets are allowed at Oak Grove Park, but visitors can enjoy bag lunches on picnic tables or fire up the grills for leisurely gatherings after work or on weekends. There’s a bike rack by the pool entrance on 159th Street and a huge parking lot on the park’s west side if you’re not living nearby.

Part of the 2015 park improvement project was the construction of four new fenced-in tennis courts, located on the south end of the park next to Oak Grove Elementary School. To the west of the parking lot along NE 8th Avenue is an unlit athletic field used mostly for soccer. It has six sets of metal bleachers for spectators, but sadly the seats are empty and “Field Closed -- Keep Out” signs dot the green space where athletes showed their talent not so long ago.

ParkPatrol_5

According to Kamali Burke, communications and public relations manager for Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces, there are future plans in the works for Oak Grove Park. In an e-mail, Burke writes, “Anticipated improvements include repairing the walkways, painting the community center, replacing the playground, adding security cameras, converting the athletic turf from natural to artificial, and adding lighting to the field.”

For now, the iron gates are shut and locked 24/7 at the pool. Since much of the park is not fenced, police yellow-caution tape is strung across park entrance walkways and wrapped around playground and fitness equipment, hoping to discourage visitors in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

During a BT visit to Oak Grove Park in late March, a police car drove through, announcing the park was closed and people had to leave, which the handful of walkers, joggers, picnickers, and children did. Such a pretty park, but for now it and our other parks must remain closed until we get the all-clear from the county and state.

 

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Park_map

Oak Grove Park
690 NE 159th St.
Miami, FL 33162
305-944-8670


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


Hours: 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Picnic tables: Yes
Barbecues: Yes
Picnic pavilions: No
Tennis courts: Yes
Athletic fields: Yes
Night lighting: Yes
Swimming Pool: Yes
Playground: Yes



 

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