|Gone to the Dogs|
|Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor|
Amelia Earhart Bark Park has room to run
Why would residents along the Biscayne Corridor travel eight to nine miles west to Hialeah for park recreation? One big reason is Amelia Earhart Bark Park.
Located within the sprawling 515-acre Amelia Earhart Park in unincorporated Miami-Dade, this five-acre, fenced-in bark park for dogs competes with a variety of outstanding amenities for humans, including a golf course, a soccer complex, miles of bike trails, a farm village, and five lakes for watersports. The AEBP may sound puny in comparison with the overall expanse of the park, but in the dog world, this bark park is huge -- and for dog owners, size sometimes matters.
It’s the first of five regional fenced-in dog parks created and run by Miami-Dade County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces. Erected in 2001, it was the largest off-leash dog park in the county until 2011, when the 6.5-acre West Kendall District Bark Park opened. (Both Tropical and East Greynolds dog parks are on two acres of parkland; Haulover’s fenced-in area for dogs is 3.3 acres, but the park also allows limited beach access to dogs and their owners.)
Amelia Earhart Park was created in 1980 on land that was the southern undeveloped section of the old Naval Air Station Miami, which was put out for bid after the air station closed down. It is named for the famed aviator whose fateful last flight left from Miami in 1937.
The Miami Herald reported that in 2001 Natacha Seijas, District 13 county commissioner at the time, spearheaded the dog park project in response to community interest. According to Laura Phillips, public information officer for Miami-Dade County Parks, a small portion of the larger family picnic area across from Peregrine Falcon Lake was turned over to the dogs, for an initial cost of $177,000.
It was paid for by the county’s Capital Outlay Reserve Fund and is one of the county parks with Pet Supermarket as its corporate sponsor. The Parks Foundation has worked with the company on other bark parks, including the park at Haulover Beach Park.
The main park entrance is located at the intersection of E. 4th Avenue and E. 65th Street. (Hialeah’s street names do not conform to the rest of the county’s roadways.)
A short drive through the scenic greenspace leads to the bark park and adjacent family picnic area along the central edge bordering the Gratigny Parkway. The mega lot has 120 parking spaces, but only one handicap spot near the bark park. Parking is free Monday through Friday, though on weekends and holidays there’s a seven-dollar fee for cars. Payments can now be made with the PayByPhone app.
One bike rack is installed by the dog park’s entrance gates, where park rules in English and Spanish are posted.
The bark park comprises separate large- and small-dog (under 35 pounds) areas, but they share one double-gated entrance. The small-dog section is less than one acre in size and has one pet waste station, one garbage can, two metal benches, and four wooden picnic tables. There are no water fountains in this part of the park.
The shared chain-link fence line between large- and small-dog sections is only four feet high, and the entrance gate leading from the large dog park into the small dog park has a latch that doesn’t properly work. Yikes!
Two agility tunnels and a sad-looking, old, igloo-style dog house can be found here. Low-lying areas around a single agility ramp were swampy when the BT visited in early September.
According to longtime park employee Gladys Fregio, who was on duty that day, park staff come by four times a week to empty the receptacles and replace the pet waste station cleanup bags. There was no dog poop spotted anywhere on the grounds.
The majority of space at AEBP -- more than four acres -- is dedicated to dogs larger than 35 pounds. The six-foot chain-link fencing is holding up pretty well, as is the natural sod, which takes a lot of dog traffic.
Next to its large size, shade trees are the park’s biggest asset. Newly planted and braced trees join the substantial oak, gumbo limbo, pine, palms, and flowering cassia and mimosa. The shade these trees provide might be why there isn’t a pavilion or shelter anywhere in the five acres, if you don’t count the odd little rustic shack erected just inside the entrance by the community bulletin board.
Concrete walkways wind through the entire park. “Bark Park Boulevard” circles around a makeshift agility area consisting of sewer pipes decorated with cartoon animals, painted rubber tires, and agility ramps resurfaced with shaggy artificial turf. Curiously, no pet waste stations are located in the agility area.
Elsewhere, there are three pet waste stations, two water fountains for dogs, two water fountains for humans, ten benches, and 13 picnic tables. There are three garbage cans, but none are placed by picnic areas or the agility section. Fire hydrants are everywhere: six of them dot the landscape, to many a dog’s delight.
Phillips notes in a BT e-mail exchange that there have not been any improvements to AEBP in the past five years. “Future development near, but not within, the bark park may include a restroom, shelters just outside the fenced area, along with a walkway loop around the lake and vehicular circulation improvements.”
Visitor Robert Newton says he avoids the busy after-work hours at the park and comes earlier each day to exercise his fluffy three-year-old rough collie mix, Junior, and his five-year-old golden retriever, Toby. But as Newton reads the paper at a picnic table, his dogs are content to stay close by.
Other dogs wander the grounds or meet up with old friends. Not a single bark is heard. The small-dog park had a visiting red-nose pit bull, even though pit bulls are strictly forbidden in the park, according to posted rules.
Volume 15, Issue 1, March 2017
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