Curtis Park in Allapattah Faces Closure From Toxic Ash

City of Miami officials are quietly debating what to do with their latest toxic playground: Curtis Park, a sprawling sports complex and recreational facility at NW 19th Street and 24th Avenue The site also houses the city's Allapattah Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) office.

See also: Miami's Toxic Parks

Documents reveal that melted glass, metal, and other suspicious materials were found last fall during a visual inspection of the park. Subsequent laboratory analysis, conducted in late December, confirmed dangerous levels of antimony, arsenic, barium, copper, iron, and lead. A spokesman for Miami-Dade's Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM), responding by email to a New Times query, said the toxic material appears similar to that found at the city's Blanche Park, Merrie Christmas Park, and Douglas Park, suggesting the site might have been a former dumping site for incinerator ash. City of Miami officials have made no public announcement about the Curtis Park findings.

For now the park remains open. On a recent day, the basketball courts were filled, joggers circled the running track, children of all ages tossed footballs on the artificial-turf-covered athletic field, and other visitors sat leisurely on benches. But a small, fenced-in playground area -- deeply shaded by a canopy of banyan trees -- was padlocked. "Why is it not open?" 26-year-old Maia Jimenez asked as her 5-year old son, Jorge, pawed the gate.

At the other end of the park, near 19th Street, a city parks department employee who asked that his name not be used, explained, "It's all contaminated. They're saying this used to be a dump site. They might close the whole park. We don't know yet."

Unlike Miami's other toxic parks, which are located in more affluent areas, Curtis Park has received little attention from elected city officials and media crews. No signs warn of contaminated soil or health risks from exposure. The park worker said the tainted soil -- as far as he's been told by supervisors -- is concentrated in the playground area, which has remained locked since shortly before the new year.

On January 6, DERM wrote to City of Miami officials outlining its options: Close the entire park or just the tainted areas. If the city chooses the latter option, it will be required to submit to DERM a plan detailing how it will prevent public exposure to the toxins. If such a plan exists, it has not been made public.

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