The sight of a father playing catch with his child is common when you visit a Miami-Dade park. Sports play a role in children’s development, and providing adequate facilities is a public responsibility.
But what are communities and schools doing to make these facilities more accessible?
The town of Cutler Bay has 10 public parks. Four provide a wide range of recreational facilities such as tennis courts, baseball fields, batting cages, soccer fields, football fields, swimming pools or jogging paths with exercise machines.
“There is availability and accessibility for everybody,” said Parks and Recreation Manager Etienne Bejarano. “There is a park per square mile.”
Bejarano added that Cutler Bay provides parks with both recreational facilities and passive places to have lunch and leisurely experiences.
These parks also include youth programs where parents can enroll their children in sports such as football, baseball and soccer.
Eli Salazar, a Cutler Bay resident, said there should be more awareness of the town’s sporting opportunities. “Cutler Bay is a great place that has a lot of parks,” Salazar said. “I don’t know if everyone is aware of these parks. I don’t know if Cutler Bay is really active in letting people know where these parks are [located].”
Bejarano responded this way to Salazar’s concern on how Cutler Bay is promoting its parks and sports programs:
Parents and coaches also gave their thoughts on the importance of sports for children and families, as well as how funding for sports facilities and programs should be a main focus.
Cutler Bay prides itself in being a sporting community. Last year, the town’s annual golf tournament resulted in almost $10,000 put into the community fund.
Town Manager Rafael G. Casals discussed the importance of the golfing community and its impact on Cutler Bay. “This is a big golfing community,” Casals said. “The number one fundraiser that we had for the foundation is the golf tournament. There is also the Palmetto Golf Course, which is easily accessible.”
Tony Noisom, a regular at the Palmetto Golf Course, said he values the lessons that golf can teach a person and believes that more kids should be introduced to the sport. “It teaches you patience,” he said. “It teaches you to be focused and what it does is it teaches you a little about yourself [and] your character.”
Noisom also said he believes that golf has become a more accessible sport as greens fees have fallen.
“Golf continues to become, in my opinion, a prohibitively expensive sport throughout the world,” he said. “But I have also seen the cost of golf being reduced. At one time you couldn’t get on a golf course unless you were spending $80 to $100. Now you can get on a golf course for as low as $10, so … we’re seeing an increased interest in it.”
Tom Gibson, the head golf professional at Palmetto, said that golf has become more inclusive. “We have programs where kids under nine can play for free,” he said. “We are trying to promote juniors and family golf. That’s what we are about.”
Gibson also said that golf can be played by anyone, from kids as young as 10 years old to elders as old as 90.
What else is Cutler Bay doing to make sports more accessible? In January, the town passed a resolution to expand Miami Southridge High School’s sports program. A $2,500 grant, funded by the golf tournament, was designed to “increase the diversity of student athletes at the school and make Southridge a top choice for incoming high school students.”
Cutler Bay Mayor Tim Meerbott expressed joy when the resolution passed. He said that he values high school athletics.
“They build teamwork,” Meerbott said. “Sports develop friendships with others.”
The money will go towards expanding sports such as golf, badminton and swimming.
According to Michelle Horne, a supervisor at the Cutler Ridge Park pool, Cutler Bay allows schools in the district free access to the pool.
“Our local schools such as Cutler Bay and Southridge, we host them for free,” Horne said. “Anywhere outside the district has to pay a fee, but we try to fit in as many schools as possible so everyone has a chance.”