For more than six years, historic Chapman Field Park’s ball fields sat in disrepair. After soil samples showed elevated levels of arsenic, the park’s three fields shut down in 2014. The community was told it would be a temporary closure, taking no more than six months to fix. Immaculate fields rotted while politicians and bureaucrats salivated over a chance to change the dynamic of the park. Six years and two public meetings later, not a millimeter of progress has been made.
Pinecrest resident Ethan Shapiro created the Facebook group, Save Chapman Field Park, with the goal of fixing the three ball fields. With the help of his 12-year-old daughter, Sarah, he posted videos of vines growing on batting cages, 50-foot trees in the outfield and weeds overgrown on infields. In a month, the group ballooned to nearly 1,000 members. People expressed disbelief and recalled better days spent on fields that date back to the park’s founding in 1972.
“I’m disappointed in Miami-Dade County from the top down who just dropped the ball. It’s a shame. This is our birthplace and a special place to thousands of athletes, families, friends—everyone who stepped foot on Chapman Field,” shared Manny Ferrero III, who started the International Slow Pitch Softball organization at Chapman Field Park in 2008 in honor of his brother, PFC Marius L. Ferrero.
A Brief Timeline
- June 2014: The Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) had a plan to replace contaminated fill used to construct the park.
- April 2015: Environmental Consultant in the Parks Department, Colin Henderson, advised DERM to stop work, stating plans may change for Chapman Field ball field.
- August 2016: The Parks Department submitted a plan to reopen Field 1, but demolish Fields 2 and 3, the batting cages funded by the Howard Palmetto Baseball & Softball Association, and remove light poles, fences, bleachers, and other items for reuse at other parks. In its place would be a grass area and concrete walkway. Park neighbors and the baseball/softball community revolted. The county agreed to go back to the drawing board and promised to reach out to the local community for inclusion in developing a new plan.
- Fall 2016: Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, presently a candidate for Miami-Dade County Commission District 7, passed a resolution in support of repairing the three fields.
- December 2018: The Parks Department proposed to repair just one field by January 2020, but delivered no plan for Fields 2 and 3.
- October 2020: Save Chapman Field Park group hosts a drive-by attracting over 300 supporters with elected leaders from Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Coral Gables. “I don’t recognize the place because it’s literally a forest on the ball fields. This is a failure of leadership and a failure of government,” observed Pinecrest Mayor, Joe Corradino. Palmetto Bay Mayor, Karyn Cunningham, said, “Our children need the park space. Children need to be out and about especially during COVID times.”
- October 5, 2020: The Palmetto Bay Village Council unanimously passed a resolution urging the county to expedite and restore all three fields.
The Miami Herald published a front-page article covering the neglect at the park in mid-October. In response to the Herald’s questions, and to the shock of Save Chapman Field Park supporters, the Parks Department resurrected their plan from 2016 to demolish Fields 2 and 3 at a cost of $2.1 million and build an open space. Julie Jeffries, a neighbor whose house backs up to the park commented, “The demand at Chapman is for fields. There are plenty of multipurpose open spaces at nearby parks.” The County claims that construction will complete for Field 1 by August 2021. Meanwhile, nothing has been done to fix the three fields and they look worse every day.
To get involved, join the Save Chapman Field Park Facebook group. Concerned citizens are also encouraged to submit a 311 request to Miami-Dade County and report a Park Concern.