Can’t Play in Park

WSVN — “Let’s go to the park and play.” Sounds like fun for a kid, unless they are told they have to pay to play in the park. Why? It’s why one South Florida parent called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Little kids playing flag football. Fun for the parents to watch and more fun for the kids to do.

Tim Quigley: “It’s a 6 to 8-year-old flag football practice. Learning how to play, learning how to do jumping jacks??. It keeps them off the video games.”

Tim Quigley coaches these little guys who will occasionally meet and play another team at another park for a game.

Tim Quigley: “I believe in sports for kids. I grew up in recreational sports. [It’s] nothing serious and it’s great.”

The kids need to practice once or twice a week, and near their homes is Brian Picolo Park with, what appeared to be, a perfect spot…a cricket field.

Tim Quigley: “I’ve never seen cricket players in the three years since I have been here.”

It seemed like a perfect place, and of course, you know what’s coming next. A perfect place until…

Tim Quigley: “Someone pulled up in a golf cart and told us we can’t use this field. The cricket field was by permit only.”

The permit for these little kids to practice in the park is not cheap. A $100 permit fee…then $20 an hour in the daytime, and $40 for each hour they play in the nighttime.

Tim Quigley: “Four months, which is 16 weeks, 32 practices at the most. So we can’t afford to pay $12 hundred to $15 hundred for permits.”

Tim was surprised to be told that tax-paying parents had to pay so that their kids could play in a park they already pay for.

Tim Quigley: “This is why I decided to pursue this because it’s a matter of principle. Six-year-olds using a grass field that we pay taxes for and why even bother paying taxes if we can’t use it?”

Tim contacted the park employees and his elected commissioner. Both told him he could play in the park with his son for free, but the 10 kids practicing here had to pay because they were considered “an organized group.”

Tim Quigley: “Organized is where you have football teams coming from different football cities– everybody coming together meeting on a field. When you have 10 little kids and six-year-olds learning how to play the game of football, to me, that is not organized.”

The people at the park said they felt bad for the little kids, but the rules were the rules and this organized group had to pay for a permit to play in the public park.

Tim Quigley: “I told her we couldn’t afford to buy the permit. She said ‘Well you can’t use this area. I’m very sorry.’ We left because she asked us to leave.”

Howard, take a look at the 6, 7 and 8-year-olds. Just a bunch of little kids having fun?

Or legally are they considered an organized group that has to pay to play in a public park?

Howard Finkelstein: “When my kids were little, we called it bumblebee soccer–a bunch of little kids running around and into each other. It wasn’t organized, but the county can regulate their parks any way they want, and they can also allow anything. In other words, give the kids a break.”

And that’s exactly what happened.

We then spoke to Dan West, Broward County’s Director for Parks and Recreation.

He told us that the cricket field was often busy–booked for 150 days a year for cricket, soccer and other permitted use.

He said that if the kids wanted to play on the cricket field, they had to have that permit. However, he also said they have two other fields where the grass is high, but unorganized groups are welcome to play in them for free.

Since Tim considers his group unorganized, he will be allowed to use that field for free. West also added he was going to work with Tim and get the grass mowed there for him.

Howard Finkelstein: “Give the county credit. They have to have rules, but in cases like this, common sense trumps rules. And in this case, Parks and Recreation found a good common sense solution.”

Tim is glad the park found a place to let the kids play for free and hopes all parks do the same for all kids.

Tim Quigley: “I’d like to see them use common sense when it comes to using our public places and allowing these kids to have fun out there.”

Patrick Fraser: “My parents never had to pay when we played in the park. Is that what they call the “good old days?” Anyway, if you have a similar issue, talk to the people who run the park. They may be able to help and if their hands are tied, contact the elected officials you put in office. Maybe they will listen to you.”

Fumbling and stumbling trying to score a solution to your problem? Ready to drop back and hand it off to someone? Contact us. We’ll tackle it for you and we won’t throw up the white flag.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7 News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com

Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN

Broward: 954-761-WSVN