Can Belle Isle Park be a safe and shared play space for dogs and kids?

Dogs playing unleashed Sunday in Belle Isle Park.

Dogs playing unleashed Sunday in Belle Isle Park.

Back in the middle of the last decade, when Miami Beach renovated Belle Isle Park, planners envisioned a passive park with designated play space for dogs in two fenced runs.

Sophie Landers, the granddoggerBack then, dogs hugely outnumbered kids in Belle Isle residences and Belle Isle Park.

You can make the case now that that kids are catching up — or have caught up.

If you live on our island, you know the demographics of Belle Isle have changed a lot. We have many more young families. You see moms and dads pushing strollers and walking and running little ones every day in and around the park.

There are also many dogs with owners outside the dog runs — which is perfectly fine — and often others running the park unleashed, which isn’t so fine.

Some parents  have approached the Belle Isle Residents Association to ask if there could be a dog-free patch of Belle Isle Park. They’d like an area where their kids could safely play without having to worry about them falling into a pile of poop or pee from an errant pet.

You may think, “hey, there’s a great playground at Maurice Gibb Park, go there.” And true, there is. But that’s a long way to push a stroller for a few minutes of exercise, and even more difficult with our ongoing road construction. With a park at our front door, should it be necessary if all you want to do is run around with your kids?

If you are thinking that dog owners are required to clean up after their pets, you are correct. But even the cleanup leaves a residue, and no one cleans up after a dog that pees on the grass.

At the residents association meeting on Jan. 21, BIRA President Scott Diffenderfer asked for volunteers to discussion ways Belle Isle can address the issue. A couple of parents reached out at the meeting, but more involvement would be welcomed. If you are interested, email


14 responses to “Can Belle Isle Park be a safe and shared play space for dogs and kids?

  1. Bravo

    • Alex Barrientos

      The real mess is the area next to the benches were the strollers handler gather to eat and talk.No pet can produce the kind of garbage we humans do.

  2. Richard Osborne

    My dog is walked five times every day in Belle Isle park ON LEASH. I also pick up his droppings EVERY TIME. Those practices are the law and should be enforced by signage and peer pressure of other pet owners and visitors. Those are positive remedies to the current situation.
    As far as “poop residue”, this is a public park. Unless we prohibit pets or require doggie diapers(!), common sense and acceptance must suffice.
    Let’s commit to enforcing the law: no off leash, and mandatory clean up!

    • Well said, responsible pet owners is what is needed, nothing more nothing less. Belle Isle is not a private park, but a public city park maintained by the city of Miami Beach with fiscal appropriations and by city tax payers. On leash laws and dog littering is enforced by fines if violated.

  3. Alex Barrientos

    If you ever visit the park you will see a bunch of “nannies”siting in the benches talking among themselves or in a cellular.Pet owners take more care of their pets than the “nannies”do of the children in their care.Also children on strollers should not be in the grass or in the pavement were everybody walks.If they are so fussy with the children keep them home.

  4. Why can’t we be happy and enjoy our paradise ?now the newest is : Children versus dogs ? Belle Isle Park
    Is designated as a Dog Park

  5. “But even the cleanup leaves a residue, and no one cleans up after a dog that pees on the grass.”

    There is no way to create a “residue” free zone for children outdoors no matter how hard you try. The park is home to, or is visited by or flown over by, doves, pigeons, crows, mockingbirds, sparrows, cattle egrets, ibis, pelicans, sea gulls, green parrots and even black vultures. They all leave more “residue” than you can imagine. Add to that rats, feral cats, squirrels, and the occasional iguana (notorious for salmonella), plus whatever fungi exists in the soil, and you have a veritable petrie dish of microbes. Thanks to standing water in the park, biting bugs, including mosquitoes, are also a problem especially to exposed flesh less than a meter off the ground. Fortunately humans develop hardy immune systems at an early age that protect us from the worst of nature.

    That’s a good thing given the inattentiveness of many of the nannies in the park, who allow their charges to frolic unwatched in the microbe-rich turf, while they text and chat amongst themselves. That said, I suspect the real danger is from child-to-child transmission of disease (are your children’s playmates properly vaccinated? Have you asked?) not zoonotic illnesses.

  6. BelleIsleBlog is going to jump in here to moderate.
    First, it should be said this is a place for civil discourse, and this should NOT be a battle of children vs. dogs. The issue on the table is not one ofbanning dogs should be banned from the park, or how adequately nannys or parents or pet owners mind their loved ones. It is whether an area of the park could or should be set aside specifically for kids.
    That is the question. So go forward and discuss, and be kind to your neighbors, please.

    • Hi Belle Isle Blog Site Is there any way I can reply a post to your site without having a blog of my own? I haven’t had success in hitting send, so I’m reaching out to you, as a last attempt, although I realize you may not receive this either. I’m a very civil and nice writer if that helps 🙂 ok thanx, madi fose

  7. “First, it should be said this is a place for civil discourse, and this should NOT be a battle of children vs. dogs.”

    Well, that is exactly how the writer set up the argument so what would you expect to get in the comments? Every paragraph in the editorial is basically children and parents vs dogs and their owners. Or am I being uncivil in daring to criticize the writer?

    The question, as you put it: “It is whether an area of the park could or should be set aside specifically for kids.” So how can you have a discussion of the pros and cons of an exclusionary “safe zone” without hearing from the excluded?

    As for “civil discourse,” what has not been civil?

  8. Richard A. Freeman

    The Dogs of Belle Isle: Yes, I concur that dogs should NOT be allowed to romp, leash-free, in the center of Belle Isle Park, which is intended for kids and their families. But the bigger problem is that when dog owners allow their dogs to romp, leash-free, in the center of Belle Isle Park, EARLY on Saturday and Sunday mornings (i.e. between 7:00 and 8:30 a.m.), the barking of their dogs reverberates between the high-rise condominium buildings surrounding the Park, waking up virtually everyone who would prefer to sleep a little later on the weekends. This problem is further exacerbated when dog owners at 9 Island Avenue walk their (barking) dogs very early in the morning or very late at night in the grassy area between the tennis courts and 9 Island Avenue. The barking noise is reified between the canyons of Costa Brava and 9 Island Avenue. Dog owners need to be aware that the sound of unleashed barking dogs, prior to 8:00 a.m. and after 10:00 p.m., is an unwelcome nuisance in the neighborhood. A little consideration by dog owners in this regard would go a long way to peaceful co-existence between dog owners and their neighbors on Belle Isle.

  9. I believe most dog owners are responsible, but it will be those that feel the world revolves around them and don’t bother to clean up after their animals that have brought this to this point. Today ..Sunday, February 28th, there are over 7 areas (I have photos) where lazy, inconsiderate dog owners have failed to clean up and left a potential health hazard for a young unsuspecting child. I personally have & will continue to questions inconsiderate self absorbed people such as the lady with two dogs who was allowing her two dogs to room free and crap in the middle of the play area, NOT in the designated DOG areas. I will not stand idle while these people break the law and have no regards for others….THEIR BEHAVIOR is what is causing this problem….not nannies and children. It is sad that some of these people value only their animals and are so anti-children and anti respect and consideration for anyone other than themselves………It is the duty of responsible dog owners to police each other, although I fear that the self absorbed are growing in numbers much faster….. and will shortly outnumber the responsible ones!

  10. Jennifer Quinones

    Isn’t it ironic that the picture of the dogs & their owners running around without leashes in this article in the middle of the open park in violation of the law are also 2 residents of 5 Island. Speaking of a lack of consideration for others and the world revolves around me attitudes!! BTW, 5 Island is a NO PET building because residents have chosen to live free of the problems of PETS, such as allergies, constantly barking of happy or neglected dogs, traumatic or fear of animal encounters, irresponsible pet owners, or just plan choice & preference. These fine citizens don’t care about an entire building rules & regulations! Want to bet on who also doesn’t clean up after their dogs!
    I guess these fine examples of pet owners DON’T care about any laws…..of course not, they are obviously above the law & everyone else here on Belle Isle and that’s the real problem.

  11. All of the above blog comments, pros and cons of children and dogs seem to make all very substantive points. However, the one remaining point, or bone of contention missing is that this park, Belle Isle Park is a city maintained and operated park. It is not governed by the private residences that surround its premises. It is sustained by city apportioned budgeting and by the tax payers of Miami Beach. There are rules that are required to be enforced by local law that dogs can only be off leash in the two designated dog enclosures at Belle Isle Park. There are many parks throughout Miami Beach proper and all have their own individual enforced assigned pet areas specific to each park. Because Belle Isle is a city owned and operated entity all dogs MUST be ON leash With someone, at all times when visiting the park if not using the 2 designated dog enclosures.
    Unfortunately there is a frequent number of residents and non-residents who allow their pets the freedom of being Off leash outside of the 2 designated areas. This presents an extreme safety hazard to All ages, as several times I have been side swiped and almost knocked off my feet by even small dogs swooshing by me in their zest.
    Perhaps people don’t think that their canine child is able to inflict stress on a person, but it is illegal to let them Off leash for this reason specifically as for many other reasons. I am also a loving dog parent, but I am responsible and courteous to others, and mindful of this particular law that is there to protect us all.

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