Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The New Park On Harbor Island

The Paul Vogel Park opened on Harbor Island last Saturday. I went over to take a look at the place this weekend. I really wanted to like it and the park itself is a good start. The park needs some work, mostly to get some shade and to replace the portable toilets but physically, it's a nice facility.

The park has the advantage of a great water view, a nice central field suitable for lots of things but probably best used for kids to run around, and a complicated looking jungle gym kind of space for climbing and playing. For adults it has four exercise stations designed to provide a complete workout, which is pretty cool considering the cost of gyms in the area.

There are problems and ones that I hope don't result in it being abandoned.

First is the location. It's on Harbor Island and is very difficult for pedestrian access, not just from the other neighborhoods but on Harbor Island itself, there are no sidewalks. You can't walk to it and certainly your kids can't. When you drive to it, Harbor Island only parking by permit. While this is loosely enforced, you are at risk of a parking ticket if you don't live on Harbor Island.

Second is the neighbors. The lots from 7914 to 7918 West Drive, immediately adjacent to the Park, are derelict and overgrown with weeds and vermin. There is a derelict barge immediately to the south further detracting from the view. This situation presents a health and safety hazard, particularly during mosquito season, and is dangerous and unsightly. The owner of this property is Scott Greenwald, the would be strip club developer who sits on the Budget Oversight Commission deciding how our taxes get spent, owes $289, 607 dollars in back taxes on the place as of today (per the Miami-Dade Property Appraisers office). There's very little chance that he will clean it up and the city needs to get tough on enforcement.

Finally, you can't ignore the financial history of the park. The city paid $4 million for the plot, a lot more than it was worth, and this came out of the bonds we tax ourselves for each year. Something shady went on.

It's a shame, but I guess it's the best we'll do for a while and I think the city can make it work. Get the lots to the south cleared out, exempt some of the parking spaces from the permits, add some shade trees around the edges, replace the portable toilets, clean up the waterfront and we might have something. Not much, but it's something.

Kevin Vericker
April 3, 2012

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