Temporary playground in Belle Isle Park? Residents at meeting emphatically say no

The playground at Maurice Gibb Memorial Park

The playground at Maurice Gibb Memorial Park

The notion that the park on Belle Isle could host a playground while Maurice Gibb Memorial Park undergoes renovation received a mostly negative response from Belle Isle residents who attended a community meeting Thursday night.

The Miami Beach Parks Department posed the question to the Belle Isle Residents Association, which invited residents to give the city feedback during an association board meeting at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave.

“I wanted them to hear directly from residents” about the proposal, BIRA president Scott Diffenderfer told the roughly 30 residents who showed up. “This is literally to hear your input.”

What the two Miami Beach parks representatives heard was mostly against the idea. Some said the playground would be too noisy. Others said itt would attract too much traffic in an area that lacks parking. The dogs and the children would be a bad combination, one resident said.

Some of the concerns ventured into the bizarre. One resident said the playground would attract children, and the children would “attract sexual offenders.” (We are not making this up).

The one attendee who spoke out in favor of temporarily moving the equipment  pointed out that when Maurice Gibb Park closes for renovations, “people are going to come to the park with their kids anyway,” because it will be the closest available open space for parents in the Belle Isle/Sunset Harbour area.

Cindy Casanova, assistant director of Miami Beach’s Parks and Recreation Department, told residents: “We know there is no appetite for this from anyone here, which is something we needed to hear.”

(UPDATE: There is an effort on Facebook to encourage parents who couldn’t attend the meeting to let the city know they do support the playground move.Parents are urged to email Casanova at cynthia.casanova@miamibeachfl.gov).

She said the city has no plan to move the equipment to Belle Isle if residents don’t want it.

Diffenderfer said he had approached developer Bradley Colmer, whose company is seeking to build a mixed-use project across from Maurice Gibb park, so see if he would consider temporarily making his property available for the equipment until his development gets city approval and construction can begin. Right now, the proposal is stalled before the city commission.

Diffenderfer said Colmer is”open” to the idea. Casanova said the city would reach out to him.



15 responses to “Temporary playground in Belle Isle Park? Residents at meeting emphatically say no

  1. dfkellett@gmail.com

    Sad to see such a negative response from Belle Isle Residents. What a wonderful community spirit! But let’s be clear, responses from 30 people is not exactly a basis for drawing any statistically Significant conclusions. It is simply a straw poll. I hope the Cof MB is a little more analytical When they make a decision on this.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. The reason this was a resounding no was that the meeting was held at an inconvenient hour for parents who are bathing, feeding, and caring for their children at that time. There was a women who actually stated that Belle Isle is a classy place and putting a temporary playground there will ruin it…..but dogs and all their poop are cool, cause she loves dogs 🙂 Can we get real!?!? There are two….TWO…enclosed parks for dogs at Belle Isle, but somehow a TEMPORARY park with, God forbid, children in it will totally mess up the ambiance. Equal rights for dogs and kids!

    And sex offenders are alright too, as long as they stay near that other park 1 block away. Get your heads checked!

    Now the issue of noise at the park….none of the toddlers I’ve seen are up much past the early bird special time, so I don’t think they’ll be throwing any wild parties in the park late night. This argument is absurd!

    And parking…don’t get me started…oh wait, you already did. Have you tried parking there. IT. IS. IMPOSSIBLE. No one is driving to this park. Everyone that comes is walking.

    Lastly, if there is no alternative location found, they will STILL come to Belle Isle simply because there is no where else within walking distance to go. But now, instead of just the Belle Isle kids and their nannies (and we all know how much everyone loves those nannies), the Sunset Harbor ones will come, too to take over all of the park benches….mostly the shaded one you wanted to sit on. Why wouldn’t we give them a separate, safe and enclosed space for 1 year to protect America’s future….again, it’s TEMPORARY and then you can go back to hating them.

  3. Scott Diffenderfer

    I have always encouraged people to send their comments in writing to me personally at BelleIsleRealtor@gmail.com or to our association at BIRA@BelleIsleResidents.org. We always welcome and encourage all our residents to voice their opinions. We had the meeting at 7PM so people who work could attend. We unfortunately did not hear from any parents although I appreciate the one woman who expressed her opinion in favor of a temporary playground at the meeting. We try to advocate what a majority of our residents want but we can’t always please everybody. I will do everything I can to help facilitate relocating the playground to somewhere that works for everyone and hope our residents will remain constructive to come up with a solution that works for everyone.

    • Mother Bear (with help)

      Thank you for clarifying Scott. Your efforts to attempt to find a near and alternate location are noted and much appreciated. Truly. With that being said, not having a location for a playground will be completely unacceptable.
      It is illogical and selfish that on a 3+ acre site the neighborhood thinks that 2 dedicated areas for dogs to play is a great idea, but one for children is somehow incongruous with the use of the park. I also think it is important to note that this three acre park belongs to the citizens of Miami Beach, not just to us citizens of Belle Isle. And while we neighbor the park, we aren’t the sole voice about the use of the park. If so, then maybe only tax revenue from us Belle Isle residents should be used to maintain the park and the rest of the citizens of the city shouldn’t have to pay. Would everyone at yesterday’s meeting be in favor of that?! The park has been a part of the island since its inception, so it should come as no surprise to anyone who bought or rents a unit next to the park that children would use it and that a playground would be a logical item to be placed there.
      Please consider holding another community meeting at a time when parents can go, since our families are most affected by the playgrounds closure.

    • the MAJORITY of your residents want a playground at Belle Isle park. Just not the majority of residents you sampled. The majority of the residents also favor eliminating dogs from the park.

  4. Belle Isle is a wonderful place to live because of our sense of community. As a community, we need to coexist. Humans (yes, kids too) and pets alike. Today, in Belle Isle we have two parks for dogs, and zero enclosed parks for children. Parents need a safe place for children to run and play. If Maurice Gibb playground closes, that means that our closest playground will be a 1 hour stroller walk away (round trip to Flamingo park). This is nonsense. Please consider TEMPORARILY moving Maurice Gibb playground to Belle Isle.
    Let’s start acting like a community of good neighbor’s that we are.
    Keep in mind, this playground is not permanent. Additionally, remember that each one of you reading this was at one time in your life a child. Let our children be children, and let them enjoy the outdoors in a safe playground environment.

  5. Children should be welcome on Belle Isle. They live here and should be able to play here. Or would you rather them burn up their boundless energy by running up and down your condo hallways?

  6. I am appalled by the response to allow the temporary playground to be moved to Belle Island. I thought we are a community that helps one another in time of need not some gated older citizens retreat. Please be assured not all residents feel the some way as the ones quoted in your article. I for one would welcome all the children and the play ground equipment to share our wonderful park. There are many residents who may not able to attend some of there meetings . I think there must be another way to reach out to the community for the good of all our neighbors. Sincerely, Ellen Geyer 16 Island Avenue

    Sent from my iPad


  7. Ellen: Thanks for your comment, and please share it Scott Diffenderfer, the Belle Isle Residents Association president. He needs to hear from a broader group of residents.

    • Thank you Ellen, Donald and everyone that has written here on behalf of our little residents! Some people seem to forget this is their home, too. Comments like yours remind me that Belle Isle is a good place to raise my children, and that my husband and I made the right choice when we purchased here 7 years ago.

      My family and I go to the park and playground almost daily, and contrary to what some may think, it is a very happy place filled with love for new life and the sounds of joy and laughter. We’ve made some of our best friends at the park and playground.

      Moving the playground may actually do Belle Isle some good!

  8. Scott Diffenderfer

    I will say that people who are opposed to the playground are not necessarily anti-children but in favor of keeping Belle Isle a “passive” park. They are wary of construction in the park and more cars coming to the island. The dog park was advocated for many years ago by dog owners and was part of the master plan for the park. Many dog owners are also parents so this shouldn’t be a dog vs. children discussion. We are working on a survey to go out to a much larger group of residents than we reach through email to find out opinions on issues that affect our quality of life. In he meantime, please encourage your neighbors to forward their names and email addresses to us at BIRA@belleisleresidents.org. Thanks and please stay neighborly with each other!

    • I would have to agree that I love that Belle Isle is a passive park and the convenience of having Maurice Gibb one block away is close enough…..but, it is going to be torn down, which leaves us parents in a huge predicament. Contrary to what a lot of people say, NO, we cannot just keep them locked in our apartments. Many of us are dog owners, but if you ask any of us with small children and dogs, we will all tell you that we need a playground more. 1000 times more. The children win every time.
      No one is impervious to the fact that it would create some minor nuisances while it is being relocated, but to oppose it and hang all the parents on the island out to dry for an entire year is just so incredibly selfish. The inconvenience that the playground would bring pales in comparison to what the parents would face without it. If my only option is to take the kids to the passive park, I have to worry about them running into the street, allllllll the sex offenders they apparently attract, all the dog poop they can step in, no shade, the water fountain they can’t drink out of because people let their pets drink from (I know, I should bring a kiddie cup because the pet owners already called dibs on it 20 years ago when the park was built), and that “anti-children” people who take every opportunity to crush their spirits or huff and puff under their breath when a child actually uses the sidewalk they are on. It is better for everyone if we have separate spaces. I can’t stress that enough.
      As for the survey, I appreciate you going to this distance if it is in fact a genuine attempt to seek the communities input. I’ve lived on Belle Isle for almost a decade now and have seen many completely biased and leading surveys go around. I hope that it is an impartial survey and questions are not along the lines of “do you feel an enormous eye sore playground, filled with screaming brats, on our tiny little island, with only 5 parking spots would be a good addition to the island?!” Excuse me for being a skeptic.

  9. Pingback: Parents get a second chance: Survey planned on temporary kids playground in Belle Isle Park | Belle Isle Blog

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