Miami Springs residents stormed into City Hall on Monday seeking answers about the abrupt closure of a popular tot lot.
“This is a Neanderthal knee jerk just because the mayor’s son stepped on a rotten plank,” said Nery Owens, a longtime resident who lived for decades across from the Prince Field playground.
Owens came to the meeting prepared after pulling a series of public records requests that included park safety inspection reports. She also took “165 pictures” as proof that the city did not maintain the park, as promised, she said.
“It has been a deliberate setup by the mayor to destroy our history and our children’s inspiration,” Owens said, as she described watching children play at the park as princesses, pirates and dragon slayers.
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The city has spent $47,374.89 over the past 10 years to maintain the tot lot, officials said.
About $180,000 has been budgeted for the playground, according to City Manager Ron Gorland. It is unclear where the city will get additional funds to build a new park which will cost up to $395,000.
The cost of each option:
▪ $245,000 for option one includes a “generic metal framed playground very similar to Stafford Park.
▪ $395,000 for option two includes “play structures made out of composite wood to match the existing playground and theme.”
▪ $383,000 for option three includes “play structures made of wood.”
“I felt very betrayed,” said resident Robert Samy, who waited in line to speak at an open forum and started a petition among neighbors to block the tot lot’s closure. “We don’t know of any safety issues there.”
Miami Springs city leaders voted 5-0 at the Dec. 14 council meeting to abruptly shut down the popular children’s playground at Prince Field because of safety concerns.
“If you know it’s not safe, then you gotta shut it down,” City Attorney Jan Seiden said. “You have to yellow tape it.”
The current playground, built by residents and volunteers about 20 years ago, is not compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, officials said. It is also unclear whether the tot lot with slides and swings was up to city code.
Residents caught officials off guard during open forum and spoke for more than an hour against closing the tot lot.
“Promise me that you will come to the meeting when we discuss it and you will change whatever social media you go to — get off of them and come to miamisprings-fl.gov to get factual information as opposed to opinions,” said Mayor Zavier Garcia.
Garcia instructed the city clerk to take detailed notes about each speaker’s request.
“I want to answer all of their questions,” Garcia said.