On Wednesday, December 8th, a community meeting took place for improvements needed at Carter G. Woodson Park, located in Harlem McBride.
The meeting was held at the Collins Community Center at 6:30 PM. Some city employees present were City Manager David Hebert, Mayor Michael Carn, Commissioner Mitch Rosenwald, and Vice Mayor Aisha Gordon via Zoom.
In one of three meetings held so far, the focus of the meeting was several improvements discussed from previous focus groups. Also discussed were grant opportunities that City was both granted and had the opportunity to apply for.
The park, which has been a part of the community for over 70 years, is no stranger to adversity. Up until the early ’90s, the park did not even have an official name. It was known to the community as “Harlem Park” or just “The Park”.
Park improvements such as repairs to the basketball court, sidewalks, lighting, and safety were discussed. A potential community garden and amenities such as exercise stations/equipment, gazebos, and/or an additional pavilion were also mentioned.
Faced with an option to move the basketball courts, the majority of Harlem McBride residents in attendance opposed the idea. Stating that the new condominiums that face the courts, knew what they were buying into when they moved there, this came to light, as some of the condominium residents had voiced concern over noise from the court.
Regarding the noise complaints, former Oakland Park Commissioner Steve Arnst stated, “In regards to the condominiums, buyer beware. These residents have paid taxes for 50, 60 years, were here first, and are sick of being kicked around.” The residents in attendance overwhelmingly voted to keep the basketball court in place and to repair and improve on the one that is already there, rather than move it to another location in the park.
Also up for consideration was the concept of implementing a community garden. Possible grants could be applied to such a program, but many residents stated that they would prefer a more exercise-focused park. Many expressed that they were avid gardeners at home, or that they had lost interest in gardening over the years and were skeptical if today’s youth would be interested in such a program.
City manager David Hebert stated that it was an option that he wanted the community to have, just like other parks in the city, and is something to keep open as a possibility.
Another important topic was parking. Lacking any formal parking spots, an abutting church that used to allow park-goers to park there has recently not been as accommodating.
While some questioned whether parking would be needed, many pointed out that it would be convenient to have at least a few parking spots to drop off food at the pavilion or to transport tired children home after a long day of play. They also discussed having at least one ADA parking spot available for those in need.
Longtime Harlem McBride resident and community leader, Sondra Edwards stated, “If you’re going to give us the park… It took a long time for us to get the park, Steve Arsnt knows that. Keep our park up to to date. Don’t let weeds grow out there in the children’s playground.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, community activist, Coby King, joined via telephone to encourage the Harlem McBride community to keep making their voices heard. “The change is here, ” he stated, ”They are here to listen. Continue to use these meetings to voice what you want and if you don’t want something, tell them what you do want”.
Rhiannon Samoyedny was born and raised in South Florida. She has lived in Oakland Park for over 25 years and purchased her home in Garden Acres in 2012 where she resides with her husband, two teenaged boys, a few rescue cats, and her dog.
Her professional career began as a project manager and estimator for a small Oakland Park construction company and she later went on to earn her degree in Court Reporting, where she later incorporated her own small business RS Reporting, Inc.
She has a passion for gardening and attends many horticulture classes and workshops. She is also an LGA (Local Government Academy) graduate, class of 2019, and an active community volunteer and activist. You can usually find her around town at various Oakland Park meetings and events with her notebook, so be sure to say hello.