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Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
June 2020

The Women’s Park in Sweetwater has both

AParkPatrol_1fter weeks of shutdown due to COVID-19, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced a “soft opening” of county-run parks in an April 27 press conference. County parks reopened April 29.

“Soft opening” refers to restrictions involved, limiting the parks that can reopen, as well as limiting the activities in them. As of mid-May, beaches, Zoo Miami, and Amelia Earhart Park remain closed -- the last due to COVID-19 testing held in its parking lots.

Sports fields, concessions, rentals, playgrounds, outdoor fitness zones, dog parks, recreation facilities, skate parks, pools, splashpads, gyms, and campgrounds are still closed. No park gatherings of groups of ten or more are allowed. Face masks and social distancing are being enforced.

Only singles tennis and individual play are allowed for basketball, racquetball, and soccer. Walking, jogging, and cycling are acceptable activities.

ParkPatrol_2On the first Saturday of the park reopening plan, the BT visited a near-empty Sweetwater treasure, the Women’s Park, located next to the FIU campus’s College of Engineering & Computing. According to the Trust for Public Land, the Women’s Park serves 5224 residents living within a ten-minute walk of the park. Two community safety monitors working for a private security firm greeted cars at the front drive-in gate, checking for facial masks. One monitor walked throughout the 15.2 acres making sure visitors practiced social distancing. Two small parking lots are found on the east and west ends of the park.

A plaque at the east entrance notes that the park was founded in 1992 and is the first park in the United States to be dedicated to women. It reads: “It was created to honor all women, past, present, and future, for their contributions to the betterment of the quality of life in Miami-Dade County.” Ten women are listed as park founders, including Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who at the time was an Assistant State Attorney and went on to become Florida’s first Hispanic female state attorney in 1993; and “Mother of the Park,” civil and women’s rights activist Roxcy O’Neal Bolton, who led the drive to establish the Women’s Park.

ParkPatrol_3Also at the entrance is the Gate of Wisdom, the first of three magnificent metal art-installation gates created by Cuban-born Miami artist Lydia Rubio. Part of the Miami-Dade County Public Art Collection, the Gates and Fence Project celebrates women’s strengths. Farther west along Flagler Street is the Gate of Love, in front of which is a handsome pavement mosaic; and at the western edge of the property is the Gate of Courage. Each gate is adorned with stylized depictions of flora and fauna, with the strengths spelled out in letters tossed about on the fencing.

A time capsule was buried in the park under a large oolitic limestone rock in 1992, and is located just as you walk in through the Gate of Love, commemorated by bronze plaques. The opening of the capsule is scheduled for August 26, 2020 -- Woman’s Equality Day -- and will be the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, a.k.a. the Women’s Suffrage Amendment.

Other bronze plaques can be found throughout the park. One honors the National Association of Cuban American Women (NACAW); another memorializes the 41 drowning victims of the Cuban attack on the tugboat 13 de Marzo in 1994. The boat was fleeing Cuban waters. Ten of the dead were children. Their names and ages are engraved here for posterity.

ParkPatrol_4

The lake is home to Muscovy ducks and their broods, which are many this time of year. Hens, roosters, Egyptian geese, American white ibis, pigeons, mourning doves, grackles, killdeer, and blue jays were also spotted. Most of the mature shade trees are oaks. Gumbo limbo, royal palm, poinciana, and frangipani grace the footpaths. Trash receptacles are plentiful, but only one is marked for recycling.he final bronze plaque at the park honors community activist Leona Ferguson Cooper and dedicates the children’s playground in her name. The swings, slides, and climbers erected on mostly sand surfaces are without kids now, cordoned off with yellow caution tape. Also roped off are the many shaded picnic areas with tables and grills, and benches that line the walking route, which is now for one-way-only foot traffic. In pre-COVID times, the park did not allow bikes, skateboards, or rollerblades along the concrete and asphalt walkways that take visitors around the scenic lake situated in the middle of the park.

For safety and comfort, the county has erected two solar-powered emergency call button kiosks, and has provided bathrooms in a freestanding building along the south side of the park, as well as bathrooms with outdoor access at the Roxcy O’Neal Bolton Women’s History Gallery, which is temporarily closed. The gallery hosts an exhibit of letters from the Roxcy O’Neal Bolton Papers collection at the State Archives of Florida.

ParkPatrol_5

Bolton’s activism earned South Florida women the right to what used to be all-male lunchrooms at Burdines and Jordan Marsh department stores. She founded and led the first Miami-Dade chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and founded Women in Distress, an organization supporting survivors of domestic violence. The Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital is named in her honor.

Rounding out the park amenities is a small butterfly garden located north of the lake as you continue on the walking path past the gallery. A picnic pavilion just beyond the freestanding bathroom building is quiet now, cordoned off but ready for the picnickers to return and enjoy its built-in grilling station.

Upon driving out of the east parking lot, you can catch a glimpse of a banner hanging by the Gates of Wisdom. It advertises the Summer Arts Camp, sometimes known as the Girls Empowerment and Mentoring (G.E.M.) Summer Arts Camp, for girls ages 10 to 15 at Women’s Park. The camp aims to develop leadership, self-esteem, and artistic expression. Activities are offered in performing and visual arts, journalism, and women’s history. With luck, camp will be held this year.

 

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Park_map

The Women’s Park
10251 W. Flagler St.
Miami, FL 33172
305-480-1717


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


Hours: 7:00 a.m. - sunset
Picnic tables: Yes
Barbecues: Yes
Picnic pavilions: Yes
Butterfly garden: Yes
Athletic fields: Yes
Night lighting: Yes
Historic Gallery: Yes
Playground: Yes



 

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