Category Archives: Belle Isle Park

The center of island life in words and photos.

Parents get a second chance: Survey planned on temporary kids playground in Belle Isle Park

Last Thursday night, neighborhood residents were invited to a meeting with Miami Beach Parks and Recreation staff to gauge support for temporarily moving the playground at Maurice Gibb Memorial Park to Belle Isle while Gibb Park is renovated.

The discussion, part of a regular Belle Isle Residents Association board meeting, was announced by email late Monday afternoon and posted on this blog the next day.

It wasn’t a lot of notice for parents, who usually put little ones to bed around that time. At the meeting, roughly 30 people attended, and those who spoke overwhelmingly opposed moving the playground termporarily to Belle Isle.

We blogged about what was said at the meeting, and many of your have commented — as has Scott Diffenderfer, residents of the residents association.

We thought it would be good to surface some of the comments in a fresh blog post so folks could catch up with the conversation.

Most importantly, we wanted to highlight that the the residents association plans to survey Belle Isle to get a more complete idea of what people think. Diffenderfer wrote:

“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”

Several people who commented on the blog ost were offended by a remark made by one attendee who said having the playground in the park would attract sex offenders. People also complained it would be noisy and would draw more traffic.

Here are some of the responses:

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.

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.


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.

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


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. Thanks and please stay neighborly with each other!

Scott Diffenderfer

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.


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

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.



Miami Beach is getting ready to renovate Maurice Gibb park; will the playground camp out on Belle Isle?


The view of Belle Isle from Maurice Gibb Park.

One of the next steps in the rebuilding of Sunset Harbour is the renovation and raising of Maurice Gibb Park.

The park, which features a popular playground used by kids in Sunset Harbour, Belle Isle and other Venetian Isles, has been rough around the edges for a while now.

The southeast corner has been fenced off from the public for more than two years, the result of the installation of a drainage pump and the discovery of environmental issues underground. Old timers may remember that there used to be a gas station on the corner of the park at Purdy Avenue and 17th Street. The tanks leaked.

And with the raising of Purdy Avenue on the east side of the park, it’s become a couple foot step-down from street level.

So the city is planning an environmental clean-up, land-raising and renovation for the park named for the late BeeGee and Miami Beach resident. The park includes a large playground, a wooden baywalk, bathrooms and boat launches (named for former legislator Barry Kutun).

Last week, the Miami Beach City Commission approved a request for proposals to hire architectural and engineering firms to develop an “environmental mitigation and protection plan, and conduct the design, permitting, bid and award” work necessary so companies can bid to hired and work can be done.

Once the construction contracts are awarded — that’s a ways off — the park will be closed, most likely in phases.

Parents are wondering what to do while the playground is closed. One possibility is to temporarily move the equipment to Belle Isle Park. That will be discussed Thursday night at a Belle Isle Residents Association meeting.

From an email sent to Belle Isle residents on Monday:

Since Maurice Gibb Park is scheduled to be closed for construction, the City is exploring options to relocate the playground temporarily, possibly on Belle Isle.  Since many of our residents use Maurice Gibb Park, a representative from the Parks Department will attend the meeting to discuss what will be happening at Gibb Park and how it will affect residents. Please note that no plans to relocate the playground have been made – this is simply a discussion to get input from our residents.

The residents association meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the card room at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave.

Other discussion items include:

  • Updates on street construction including the upcoming West Avenue Bridge project, progress on raising Sunset Harbour streets and sidewalks, the upcoming repair of the bridge on Venetian Way between Belle Isle and Rivo Alto;
  • Updates on the progress of new projects proposed for 31 Venetian Way, the Standard Hotel East Wing, and DecoCapital project on Purdy next to Sunset Harbour Lofts.

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


Belle Isle Park becomes a nesting place

Friday in Belle Isle Park (photo by Herb Frank)

Friday in Belle Isle Park (photo by Herb Frank)

You must have noticed how our little neighborhood park on Belle Isle has become gathering spot — for stroller-pushing moms and nannys, dog walkers and the occasional tropical bird.



Belle Isle residents meeting to focus on upcoming projects — from Watson Island to West Avenue

If you feel like that the construction projects around our island paradise never end, that’s because….they never end.

The Belle Isle Residents Association meets on Tuesday. The agenda is packed with presentations that affect Belle Isle, Sunset Harbour and the other Venetian Islands.  A sampling:

— A report from the city of Miami Beach on the construction timeline and design for the West Avenue bridge, which will extend West Avenue over the Collins Canal to connect Sunset Harbour with the area south of 17th Street.

— An overview of the upcoming reconstruction of West Avenue south to Fifth Street, including the plan to raise the roadway as much as three feet to combat flooding.

–An update on the closure and rebuilding of the westernmost span of the Venetian Causeway, which will disrupt traffic throughout the Venetian Islands

— A presentation from the organization that is fighting the proposed mega-marina project on Watson Island, which is expected to affect traffic on the MacArthur, Tuttle and Venetian causeways.

And that’s just a start. The meeting begins with a social hour at 6 p.m., and important information at 7 p.m. It happens in the card room at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Avenue.


Belle Isle gets ready for the runners; Miami Marathon’s a week away

Miami Marathon runners cross Belle Isle in 2013 race

Miami Marathon runners cross Belle Isle in 2013 raceO

Start the countdown and make your choices:

The Miami Marathon happens next Sunday morning, Jan. 25. If you’re not running, you can get up early and walk out to cheer the runners crossing Belle Isle and Venetian Way, or you can sleep in and wait for the footfalls can crushed cups to be swept away.

But you probably don’t want to make plans that involve driving between about 6 and 9 a.m.

Click for a closer look at the route

Click for a closer look at the route

This year’s race is expected to feature more than 26,000 runners battling the 26.2 mile marathon or 13.1 mile half-marathon distance. They could be from your building or from the other side the world. The event is international, and you’ll people of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds working their way over the route.

If you see them on Belle Isle, they should be feeling pretty good. We’re between Mile 8 and 9 on the race course, so they should be strong.

We’ll be on the street cheering them on, and taking lots of photos to document their hard work.