The Biscayne Times

Aug 15th
Up from the Ashes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
July 2020

Improvements keep coming to Douglas Park

MParkPatrol_1ention the surname Douglas to Miamians, and the person who most comes to mind is activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas. There are parks, schools, and buildings in South Florida named for the beloved environmentalist. But a different “Douglas” is the namesake for Douglas Park on Douglas Road near Coral Gables.

Miami pioneer John Douglas came to Dade County in 1894 and established one of the first commercial citrus farms in the area, aptly named the Douglas Grove. According to Frank B. Sessa’s 1951 book, Miami on the Eve of the Boom: 1925, in 1923, Coral Gables city planner George Merrick “used the frontage of the home of John Douglas as the north-south road junction into the city from Coral Way, forming the eastern boundary of the city.” Today his Douglas Road, aka SW 37th Avenue, runs from Miami-Dade County northward, becoming Pine Island Road well into Broward County.

ParkPatrol_2Douglas Park is a City of Miami park that was recently resurrected from toxic ashes dumped there in the 1930s that poisoned its soil and the soil of six other park sites in Miami. The ashes came from Old Smokey, the city trash incinerator in West Coconut Grove that was eventually closed in 1970.

The Miami Herald reported that traces of arsenic, barium, antimony, copper, iron, and lead were detected in the soil. Contaminated soil was removed for the most part, but deep contaminants could not be excavated. An impervious liner with up to two feet of clean soil was installed, as well as a new drainage system, to keep the soil and groundwater free of the toxins. Cleanup and renovation of the former dump site at Douglas Park took three and a half years and $5 million. The park reopened to the public in June 2017.

In all, it cost Miami $11 million to clean up the contamination in the seven parks: Blanche Park, Billie Rolle Domino Park, and Merrie Christmas Park in Coconut Grove; Southside Park and Bayfront Park in downtown Miami; Curtis Park located north of the Miami River; and Douglas Park.

ParkPatrol_3The park’s 9.4 acres in the Golden Pines neighborhood north of Coconut Grove and the Underline is located at 2755 SW 37th Ave. The Trust for Public Land reports that Douglas Park serves 10,190 residents living within a ten-minute walk of the park, which includes some people living in Coral Gables.

On May 20, three days prior to the BT’s visit, the City of Miami opened 27 of its 176 parks, including Douglas Park, as part of its Phase 1A reopening plan after three months of closure due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Because of coronavirus concerns, amenities at the park are under certain restrictions, and social distancing and facial masks are required. Walking, jogging, biking, roller skating, and singles tennis are allowed at the park as of press time.

The first weekend after reopening, the city was expecting large visitor turnouts, but Douglas Park could have been described as a ghost town. Only a handful of people were enjoying the fresh air and open spaces there: a dog walker, a jogger, three Frisbee players, two tennis players, and a guy on a bench eating a submarine sandwich. A city park ranger and a city police officer were on duty. Even on busy days, plenty of parking space is available along the S. Douglas Road lot and the lot along SW 28th Street.

ParkPatrol_4At first glance, one notices the well-maintained lawns and landscaping in this park, which looks much larger than its actual size. Trees are mostly found along the perimeter of the space, adding to the park’s open appearance. Mature trees, such as oaks, palms, and poincianas in full bloom, provide shade, and from the park’s many benches, they are quite pleasant to look at. Shade under the trees makes it difficult for grass to grow, but as part of the city’s cleanup remediation, glued mulch surrounds tree roots.

Many of the area’s trees can be admired along the asphalt bike path that meanders through Douglas Park. Posted signage indicates that the path measures 2120 feet in length and that two laps around it equals 0.8 miles -- the distance from the park to the Miracle Mile post office in Coral Gables. There are green benches along the path, as are decorative street lamps and Rubbermaid garbage receptacles.

Most of the amenities at Douglas Park are new, installed during the toxic cleanup renovation project. A beautiful, large children’s playground is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. It has colorful, innovative play equipment made by Landscape Structures, including swings, slides, and climbers, that are kept out of the sunlight by myriad overhead canvas shades. Rubberized flooring and fencing help to keep youngsters safe.

ParkPatrol_5For adults, there’s the new outdoor fitness area erected on a concrete pad under green canvas shade coverings. Fifteen Greenfields Outdoor Fitness machines are temporarily taped off until COVID restrictions are relaxed. To the north of that are two picnic pavilions, each with two picnic tables and garbage receptacles. The pavilions are also off limits for now. These and other park amenities will be available again for rental after COVID.

The east side of the park is devoted to sports. To the north is a new mixed-use field for football and soccer. Pet waste bag dispensers are installed on the chain-link fence corner posts of this athletic field. South of that is the baseball diamond. It has two covered team dugouts and two sets of covered metal bleachers. On the southeast corner of Douglas Park is the fenced-in tennis and basketball complex. Two basketball courts with their own shaded metal bleachers are closed now, but the three tennis courts are open for one-on-one play only.

Soon-to-be-constructed in the southwest corner of the park is a long-planned 6000-square foot community center. Its completion will mark the end of the park’s renovation project that began with the contamination shutdown in 2013. Douglas Park has come a long, long way since.

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Douglas Park
2755 SW 37th Ave.
Miami, FL 33133


Hours: 7:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Picnic tables: Yes
Barbecues: No
Picnic pavilions: Yes
Tennis courts: Yes
Athletic fields: Yes
Night lighting: Yes
Basketball Courts: Yes
Playground: Yes


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