Black Kids in Grove Need Roller Hockey!

Johnny Winton and some white boys say so

"I think roller hockey is a very valid park activity. It just has to be in the right park," suggests Rick Walsh, chairman of the city's Parks Advisory Board. Walsh, who is one of the board's five popularly elected delegates and represents Winton's district, learned of the rink plan just last week when a Friends of PP member called him: "I, particularly as a board member, would not be happy having something like that pushed through, especially with the awareness that there is a master plan process in progress," he says. "Why bypass that?" The master plan should be done in less than a year, "If it's done right," he adds. "And [then] they can have their roller hockey rink in the exact place that the community wants it."

But postponement is not an option, Winton insists. He will not wait for the parks master plan, or a marketing study, he explains, because roller hockey plans have been spinning for seven years. "I can tell you from just a pure practical standpoint I don't give a damn what those consultants say about Peacock Park," Winton declares. "There isn't another place for these kids." It is true that in July 1996 the Miami-Dade County Commission designated $500,000 in Safe Neighborhood Park Bond money for shoreline stabilization, building renovation, and "enhancement" of new tennis and roller hockey facilities at Peacock Park. In December 1997 the Miami City Commission passed an ordinance earmarking the bond money for construction of a lighted boardwalk at the park, lights at the nearby Meyers Park boat ramp, and "to design and install lights for the roller hockey rink." But the proposal for an entirely new $287,514 rink instead of the current makeshift one has remained in the dark. It was submitted by parks director Al Ruder last July and calls for "relocation of basketball courts ... to make room for the new rink." The proposal also states: "This project will be incorporated into the Master Plan." Construction would begin January 2004. Miami city commissioners must still vote on the proposal. Ruder says a vote on it could take place, as part of an appropriations ordinance, as early as the March 27 commission meeting.

Shawn Welch thinks Winton is offside, and has this message for whites and blacks who think the West Grove roller hockeyiate should trek to Peacock Park to play. "If this has been on the table since 1996, then when y'all planned the redoing of Virrick Park, y'all should have put the roller hockey there," she scolds. "It has two courts already." She concedes that Virrick might be too jammed up now. "It's beautiful but it's not real functional because you can't run ten feet without [running into something]. A park needs to have open spaces where you can actually run around and play, you know? And they're going to go build this [rink] there and destroy Peacock Park? I take my granddaughter to Peacock Park because she loves the water and all that. I don't want to destroy that. I've been going to Peacock Park since I was a kid."

Former Coconut Grove roller hockey team; will there be a new one soon?
Former Coconut Grove roller hockey team; will there be a new one soon?

Back in Crested Butte, Winton's clairvoyance was turning into a reality check, when New Times mentioned the proposed dimensions of the rink and the ten-foot-high wall. The commissioner serenely admitted he hadn't seen the site plan. "Maybe they are concerned, rightfully so, about the size," he concedes. "Maybe that's where the compromise comes in."

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