On a humid summer evening, Larisa Coronel watched her two sons zip around a cool blue and yellow splash pad at Officer Scott A. Winters Park in the tranquil town of Bay Harbor Islands.
Winters Park, which spreads across roughly three-quarters of an acre, also features two shaded playgrounds , a picnic pavilion, an open field, an adjacent dog park and water fountains. It’s also the first out of the town’s five parks to offer public restrooms, which is one of the main reasons why Coronel chose to celebrate her son Felix’s sixth birthday there in early June.
“Everyone wants something great for their family and community and that’s what we’ve done here and that’s what we’re continuing to do,” said Mayor Jordan Leonard, who paid special attention to the finer details when planning the park’s amentities. Leonard was adamant about planting Bermuda grass verses St. Augustine in the open field, an ideal sod for “kicking the ball around.”
He also made sure to add baby changing stations to both the men’s and women’s restrooms.
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Winters Park, 1135 98th St., has been a long time coming. Bay Harbor Islands purchased the park’s three parcels of land for $3.7 million in 2007. But it wasn’t until 2012 that $650,000 was allocated from the city’s reserve funds to pay for the park’s construction. At that time, the City Council agreed to repay the reserve from general dollars over the next upcoming 10 years, resulting in the park being 20 percent paid for by the time it opened in March 2015.
Thomas Dreher has been bringing his Great Dane Shakespeare to the dog area almost everyday. He’s appreciative to have the park but feels that it “has no shade.”
"I think most people seem happy with the concept that there is a park, but disappointed to a degree with the lack of forethought of planning the facilities," Dreher said.
Town Manager Ronald Wasson said that while the town could not plant fully mature trees, it added 10 new trees to the park and dog area, which will provide more shade over time. Additionally, a dog water fountain will be added soon.
Cheryl Convoy, who watched her Golden Retriever Jazmine frolic with the other neighborhood dogs, said that the community is grateful for the addition.
"The kids can go to the park with kids of different ages and they can also bring their dogs here after. I think we love it," Convoy said.
Bay Harbor Police Chief Sean Hemingway is also happy because the park offers children and teens a common area to be active, keeping them off the streets. He feels that this has indirectly helped improve the relationship between the town’s kids and police officers because it takes “the cop out of being the bad guy as far as throwing kids off the street.”
Hemingway and Leonard proposed to dedicate the park in memory of former Pompano Beach Police Officer Scott A. Winters, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1990. When they learned he grew up in Bay Harbor Islands, attended the local elementary school and even had his first job with Bay Harbor police, they knew they wanted to honor him.
“Dedicating a park in his memory is the least we could do,” Leonard said. “What a great honor for Officer Winters to have a park named after him, that for generations, kids are going to remember his name.”
During a March 2014 council meeting, Capt. Wayne Atkins from the Broward Sheriff’s Office, who was Winters’ sergeant in Pompano Beach, affirmed why it was a fitting decision to name a park after the fallen officer.
“I would catch him sometimes in our parks in the Northwest section, gun belt off hanging on the side of a fence, shooting basketball with some of the kids there," Atkins said. "He was a community-oriented police officer before it became a catchphrase."
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If you go
What: Scott A. Winters Park
Where: 1135 98th St., Bay Harbor Islands
Hours: 8 a.m. - sunset