Blanche Park is nice, but mice, dogfights and too much sun are issues

In 2013, traces of dioxin and heavy metal were discovered in the soil of Blanche Park. They likely traced to Old Smokey, a garbage incinerator that polluted parts of the Grove for years. 

So the county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management took charge of a lengthy cleanup that helped make it the pretty, green oasis nestled just off Shipping Avenue between Allamanda and Virginia streets that it is today.

 “When I first moved here, and I’ve lived here for 40 years, the park was nothing but a homeless camp, so it was a big deal to get a public park here,” said Village of Center Grove president Sue McConnell. “We’ve come a long way, but there is still a lot to be done,” she said.

But there are still issues. Just ask Coconut Grove resident Ab Collins, 23. Back in March, she witnessed a man attempting to break up a fight between two American Pit Bulls and several other dogs there. 

Collins, who visits the park almost every day with her three-year-old German Shepard-husky mix, said she arrived as the man, whom she couldn’t name, was severely bitten on the hand. She saw blood running down his arm. 

“The two pit bulls were left at the park without collars,” she said. “All the dogs were okay but the guy got a pretty nasty bite.”

And that’s not all, residents have sighted mice there and complained about limited parking and shade.

More recently, McConnell spotted mice in the park. She’s concerned that kids and families with their dogs could have problems with the rodents.

An image posted on the Next Door app by resident Sue McConnell shows an area along the chain link fence where mice seem to hang out. (Photo by Sue McConnell). 

“I have seen them in the front and back,” she said. “I think the mice are dangerous because they carry germs and pose a risk to dogs and children.”

The rodents cause concern among park visitors and authorities alike. It is important to balance the park’s natural ecosystem while ensuring a safe experience for all visitors.

Sam Savitz, 20, is a University of Miami student who frequents the park weekly with her dog. She says both parking and enforcement are problematic for those who want to stroll around the area.

“There are three spots to park in, which means a lot of people park on the road adjacent to the park fence, which is technically illegal,” Savitz said. “The cops then enforce this illegality with $130 citations. Yet there are times when there are up to 50 people in the park.”

Outside perspective of the park with a view of the limited parking spaces. (Matthew Wetcher/Caplin News).

Then there’s the heat. On a recent day, Grove resident Minkera Aguilar and her three children had to play beneath a tree because two jungle gyms and a swingset were unshaded and scalding to the touch.

“The ground is made of turf and becomes uncomfortable for my kids,” Aguilar said. “My kids can’t even play on the equipment because it gets too hot.”

But it is the stray dogs that most concern visitors. Savitz, the UM student, takes her 8-month-old ​​Miniature American Shepherd, Bryce, to the park almost every day to run around and play. She said over the last couple of months, there have been numerous incidents of people abandoning puppies and adult dogs there. 

“A young girl dropped off a Belgian Malinois puppy, leaving the dog alone in the park once,” Savitz said. “Another time, a man left a grown Siberian husky tied to one of the fence posts near the park.”

Both dogs were eventually adopted, she continued.

Then there was that fight between the two pit bulls that Savitz’s friend, Ab Collins, watched.

“I will never forget the moment I saw that man get bit by a pit bull and seeing blood all over his arm,” said Collins. “Someone ended up posting a photo of the two dogs on Next Door and the owner soon picked up the dog.”

But Sue McConnell, who can see Blanche Park from her home, said the place is kid and dog friendly. “All we need is a little support to bring attention to the concerns so the people here can enjoy a stress-free time at the park.”

This story was produced in conjunction with the Coconut Grove Spotlight.

Matthew Wetcher is a photographer and videographer, which began as an artistic fascination at an early age. Matthew ventured into digital journalism at Florida International University and is now fusing his passion for content creation with the art of storytelling. Matthew is also admired for his love of philosophy, music, and conscious living.