You can usually expect to see a plot of grass and maybe a tree or two at a community’s “pocket park,” but Jenny Vogel Brain of West Kendall is dedicated to watching her neighborhood’s green space grow as a little botanical garden.
Brain is on a mission to help keep Lindgren Lake Park beautiful. Her neighbors help too. And because of their continuing efforts, the park is a place where families can gather, children can play, and residents can relax and regroup, Walden Pond-style.
“I am extremely proud of the work that I have done in the neighborhood park,” Brain said of her recent cleanup.
When she tells people she lives on the 11.3-acre Lindgren Lake, three blocks southeast of The Crossings Shopping Center, most have no idea the lake is even there. The landscaped area she cherishes is a 200-foot wide park at the intersection of Southwest 116th Street and 130th Avenue.
There, residents can find Bromeliads, a Paradise Tree, Wild Coffee, Spiceberry, Giant Sword Fern, Chinese Fan Palm, Bald Cypress, Pond Apple, Coconut Palm, Gumbo Limbo, Live Oak, Green Buttonwood, White Stopper, Simpson’s Stopper, and Orange Geiger and Silver Buttonwood trees. The list goes on and on.
Brain said the park’s continued success is because of her neighbors including Lindgren Lake resident Jack Parker, a retired FIU professor of environmental studies. Parker designed the park’s landscaping. And Bob Howard, one of the original developers of Lindgren, is very involved in the neighborhood and the park.
Brain said many of the plants have seeded themselves just as they would in the native hammocks of South Florida. She said Parker told her most of the gumbo limbo trees at the front of the park “grew from limbs stuck into the remains of a giant mulch pile.”
The park’s phase one plantings were from Key Largo building projects in 1984. Land was bulldozed for homes and the native plants growing there would have been lost, Brain said.
“Some Lindgren Lake residents borrowed a pickup truck and made several trips to Key Largo to rescue and purchase trees that they transplanted in the park with the help of neighborhood residents,” she said.
Now those trees grow and thrive at the little park. Last year Claude Roatta of Action Theory native plant landscaping and nursery was chosen to help out. Brain, in addition to weeding, mulching and pruning, wrote a plant-identification guide with help from environmentalist Parker. Other neighbors got more involved. Yanina and Edwin Blanco, owners of YESigns, donated plant identification signs. Brain’s husband, Carlos, helped install them. Robert and Sandra Curbelo donated the fence in front of the park, and Beverly Martin let the volunteers use the hoses and water from her house for new plants because there is no irrigation system in the park.
“The park is now being used more often than it used to be before the landscaping was improved,” Brain said. “For two years now, the homeowners association has conducted the annual meeting in the park in November, and these occasions have been great fun. Other residents use the park for pick up ball games and for relaxing under the trees.”
The garden helps keep the neighbors close and children love it.
“Recently, when Jack Parker’s family visited for the holidays, he created a plant scavenger hunt for Josie West, one of his grandchildren. He had a list of some of the plants and a brief description of each plant. Josie had to see how many plants she could find,” Brain said.