You have to enjoy the little things in life. One of  my little things is to go to AD Barnes park, off of Bird Road and 72 Avenue.  Named after the first director the Miami-Dade Park system, AD Barnes Park is an amazing regional County park that includes a trail system,  natural areas, sports fields, a swimming pool, basketball courts, tot lots, and numerous open eating areas.

I often take my son here after school. The trip from school to the park is always a time of intense negotiation. My son, having little interest in the pine rockland and nature trail, is pushing for a visit to the playground (naturally), while I want to walk around the little oasis that is the oak hammock and quiz him on everything he sees. You can imagine how these talks go - something like, “I dont want to learn about the trees. There are too many spiders. This place is creepy. This is boring….” Etc. Sigh. These are my battles, which I am very happy to take part in (he is, after all, only 5). Sometimes I win and we read a book in the forest, and other times he wins and gets to run around the playground.

Lately our trips to the park have been disrupted by budget cuts to County park services. The natural area is no longer open some afternoons because it closes early(leaving my son very happy that he won’t be forced to identify Pinus elliotti, var densa), while weekend parking fees have annoyed many (other parks that have been similarly impacted include Tropical Park, Larry and Penny Thomson, Kendall Soccer Park,  and Amelia Earhart). Things for the parks were looking bleak until Commissioner Javier Souto sponsored a proposal to free up some money to fund park operations by taking advantage of a ‘Metro-Zoo loophole’ in the regulations governing the Convention Tax.

I don’t say it often, but kudos to Commissioners Souto who is championing this creative way of keeping our County park services running, without increasing tax or fees. The loophole being used allows the use of Convention Tax dollars to be spent on Metro-Zoo, freeing up general reserve dollars for other purposes (like removing a fee for parking on the weekend). Unfortunately, loopholes like this will not solve all budgetary woes, but commissioners should be aggressively looking  for other ways of saving tax dollars without cutting services. These measures could buy officials some time to adjust to post-boom tax revenues, while not significantly interrupting service or raising property tax.

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