The Bay Harbor Islands Town Council approved the construction of a new children’s park on 98th Street on Monday, a move that many residents applauded.
The park will cost the town $670,000 and will include two playgrounds with shade, a small dog run, a pavilion, bathrooms, a splash pad and a field.
The unanimous decision to build the park comes after months of debate and a lengthy back-and-forth discussion in Monday’s meeting about alternative uses for the park.
The idea of a community pool inside the park was discussed openly among council members in the last two meetings but was immediately dismissed due to added costs.
Council member Solange Rousselot, a proponent of the community pool, was notably disappointed in the meeting but was reluctant to distract others from making a final decision on the park after so much debate on how the land would be used.
"We’ve been talking about this for months, and I think we need to make a decision," she said. "I’m tired of coming to these meetings and nothing getting done. Our community’s families need parks, especially those that don’t have room in their backyards and cannot afford trips to Europe or South America."
Rousselot additionally commented that it’s neither the current council’s fault nor hers that Bay Harbor Islands parks have been ignored for the last 15 years.
Vice Mayor Jordan Leonard chimed in moments later to say that 30 percent of the park would be paid off in October, and that if it were up to him, he would have approved the initial $900,000 plan for the park.
"I find it hard to fathom that we have the only parks in Miami that don’t have bathrooms," he said. "Our children need a park that will accommodate them."
However, some residents were against the idea of allocating the park for small children, saying the focus should be on teenagers.
"We already have two tot lots — we need these parks for 10- to 18-year-olds," said Paul Ruthfield. "They’re the ones that get into trouble; they’re the ones that need it."
Resident Kathleen Kennedy also spoke at the meeting and agreed with Ruthfield.
"Our teenagers are skateboarding on our streets and they’re smoking," she said. "We need to give them something to do."
Nevertheless, numerous residents, including resident Veronica Stefani, urged the council to make the park for smaller kids and in the end won the battle.
Stefani, who has a 10-year-old child, said those kids get out of school at 2 p.m. and have nothing to do.
"Where do we take our kids? To the doggie park, Surfside … or do we throw them in the ocean?" she joked.