The Biscayne Times

Aug 10th
Playgrounds and Mangroves PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
February 2020

Town Center Park prioritizes kids, conservation

IParkPatrol_1n early 2011, a highly anticipated $450,000 skate park opened at Town Center Park in Sunny Isles Beach. By 2016, it was closed by the city and relocated to Haulover Park.

The State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection mandated an increase in mangrove coverage along the Intracoastal adjacent to Town Center Park. In order for the mangrove mitigation project to begin, it required the removal of the popular skate park. Miami-Dade County worked with Sunny Isles Beach to create a new skate park at Haulover -- a free skate park this time.

Not all locals were sad to see the skate park leave the neighborhood. According to Miami Herald reports in late 2011, some residents living in nearby condominiums complained about the loud noise caused by slamming skateboards. City manager Alan Cohen admitted that a sound study had not been conducted prior to the opening of the skate park.

ParkPatrol_2At first the city responded by reducing the hours of skating and investing tens of thousands of dollars in noise studies. In December 2011, the city commissioners and mayor voted 3-2 not to close the park, as they wanted a safe place off the streets for kids to skateboard. In March 2012, the kids won again: the city extended the skate park hours of operation by an hour on Fridays and Saturdays. By 2016, the mangrove project took precedent, but the kids wound up with a place to skate for free.

Originally only 3.2 acres at 17200 Collins Ave. when it was in the early development stage, Town Center Park increased in size with the donation of 2.4 adjacent acres along the Intracoastal by the developer Porto Bellagio Partners in early 2005, extending the park from Collins Avenue to the waterway in exchange for a transfer of development rights.

ParkPatrol_3In 2007 this fenced-in mangrove nest strip -- the only one in Sunny Isles Beach -- was dedicated as the Harvey Baker Graves Mangrove Reserve in honor of the town’s founder. A bronze marker with Grave’s image stands by the fencing. (A second bronze park marker pays tribute to the park’s founding mayor and commissioners.) A Herald article at the time noted, “Graves developed more than 1800 acres of land in the 1910s and 1920s, paving the way for a wave of migration to Northeast Dade.” Today it is fenced off as a conservation area, posted with no trespassing signage in the western portion of the park.

According to the Trust for Public Land (TPL), 98 percent of Sunny Isles Beach residents live within a ten-minute walk of a park, while the national average is only 54 percent. About 13 percent of its city-owned property is used for parks and recreation. Sunny Isles Beach has an impressive 11 parks for its population of 24,026; only 485 residents live outside of that ten-minute walk. Town Center Park serves 11,122 residents -- almost half its total population. The TPL map, as well as the city’s government website, still consider the park’s size as the original 3.2 acres and the 2.4-acre mangrove reserve as a separate entity.

ParkPatrol_4Town Center Park is the site of the city’s annual anniversary celebration. Concerts and holiday events also take place there, as does the year-round Sunny Isles Beach Farmers Market on the first Saturday of each month from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

Visitors can park their vehicles for free in the small parking lot along 172nd Street, use the bike rack by the decorative entrance gate, or take the bus that stops directly in front of the park along Collins Avenue. Security is enhanced by metal park fencing, security cameras, and night lighting. Signs indicate that dogs and bikes are not allowed inside the park.

The BT visited the day after Christmas, when the park was full of youngsters off from school. Considering how busy it was, it’s impressive that there was no litter. Attractive park-style garbage receptacles are strategically placed to keep things tidy. Grass is mowed and landscaping looks trim, although high-traffic areas of the large open field need re-sodding, despite wide concrete footpaths around the park’s perimeter.

ParkPatrol_5Much of the 3.2 acres consists of playground equipment. There are three designated play areas: a playground for young kids with three slides; a playground for older kids with three slides plus various climbers; and a section with three swings sets. A water fountain is close by, and the entire playground vicinity except for the swings is shaded by a huge green canvas and is made extra safe from tumbles by its super-soft flooring.

Just a few yards away from the playgrounds is a large green gazebo erected on a concrete pad with plenty of benches. It’s the go-to shelter in the park when it rains and the city has made it available for party rentals. Nontraditional seating is also provided by a number of tree planters. Palms, ficus trees, and clusia hedges in the north end are also part of the landscaping along the concrete walkways. Two Soofa benches provide mobile device users a chance to plug in while outdoors. These solar-electric charging stations are free to use, are equipped with USB connections, and serve as Wi-Fi hotspots. The smart benches can be upgraded to aid city planners who need to gather and analyze data such as street activity and foot traffic.

Town Center Park also offers adult fitness zones equipped with outdoor exercise machines installed on concrete pads and stationed along the perimeter footpaths. Near the southwest fitness zone is a public bathroom building and a soda machine.

Soon after the park was dedicated, the Rising Horizon sculpture was unveiled in the park. Artist Rafael Barrios installed his massive purple stacked cubes on an elevated platform surrounded by landscaping on the eastern park edge along Collins Avenue. It had been substantially damaged during its 2006 installation process and was even a victim of vandalism. But it was built to withstand hurricane winds and survived Hurricanes Irma and Dorian.


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17200 Collins Ave.
Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160

Park Rating
palm-1 palm-1 palm-1 palm-05 palm-05

Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Wednesday 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Picnic tables: No
Barbecues: No
Picnic pavilions: Yes
Tennis courts: No
Open fields: Yes
Night lighting: Yes
Fitness zones: Yes
Playground: Yes


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