By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – On Thursday, September 5th, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and the City Commission inaugurated the first park project of the G.O. Bond Program to reach 100 percent completion. Located at 4301 N Michigan Avenue, in the neighborhood of Nautilus, Polo Park received a major makeover.
After only ten weeks of construction time, Polo Park unveiled a renovated baseball field with new bleachers, backstops and dugouts as well as new bike racks, water fountains and benches.
A new decorative entrance gate was installed to the Meridian Avenue side of the park and a concrete pedestrian pathway was constructed around the field perimeter.
“We are so blessed to live in a city that has these kinds of residents, this kind of staff and these kinds of amenities,” said Mayor Dan Gelber at the September 5th ribbon-cutting event.
John Rebar, Director of Parks and Recreation, spoke about the project being particularly special as he said “my staff told me that middle school students were coming up to them this week and thanking them, they are thanking city staff for changing their school field for them, and that is absolutely fantastic.”
Rebar said improvements on Polo Park alone cost about $500,000. “There’s new dugouts, new drinking fountains, clay, irrigation, bases,” he told WLRN. “You’ll also see a lot of landscaping throughout the park, and we’ve added a perimeter walkway for people to enjoy around the park.”
Just ten months after Miami Beach residents voted to approve the G.O. Bond Program, and just five months after the city sold its first round of bonds, the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Polo Park marks the first of 57 total projects to reach 100 percent completion.
By the end of the calendar year, the Parks and Recreation Department will have two additional G.O. Bond-funded projects complete: Crespi Park and Stillwater Park, both of which are located in North Beach.
In regard to the city’s resilience efforts, Melissa Berthier from the city’s marketing and communications team explained, “The landscaping improvements to Polo Park included the addition of Florida-Friendly plant material.”
“Florida-Friendly Landscaping encompasses low-maintenance plants, native to Florida, which require less irrigation, pest control and fertilization. We also added coquina under the large trees near the Meridian entrance, which increases permeability and further absorbs rainwater.”
Overall, the $439 million G.O. Bond Program has allocated $169 million specifically for thirty separate park, recreation and cultural facility improvement projects. Officials say approximately 25 percent – or $117 million – of the G.O. Bond Program projects are targeting sea level rise resiliency efforts.
Berthier confirms, “All Parks, Recreation and Cultural Facility projects include some kind of irrigation, design and/or landscaping enhancements in their scopes that are designed to reduce the consequences of heat, flooding and sea level rise.”
“A separate $17 million has been added to the budgets of various G.O. Bond Parks, Recreation and Cultural Facility projects for the sole purpose of implementing blue/green infrastructure at those sites.”
Note: This article has been updated on September 9th to include more detail on the city’s resilience efforts.