(WSVN) - A group of friends meets at a Miami public park to enjoy the sun and play a little soccer. But recently, they’ve been told in order to play, they have to pay.

7’s Heather Walker investigates.

A public park is supposed to be a place for everyone to enjoy.

Louis Moleron/plays soccer at park: “Just to come here, because, you know, it’s a relaxing time, you know. Sometimes we play one hour, two hours.”

Louis Moleron loves to play soccer.

Most Saturday mornings, he and his friends meet at Morningside Park in Miami, find an empty spot and play a pick-up game.

Louis Moleron: “Sometimes you can come here and it’s only five or 10 people.”

And sometimes, there are more.

Louis and his friends say anybody who wants to play, can join in.

But in January, someone who was not interested in playing, approached their group.

Louis Moleron: “I learned that he was the park ranger, and he said, ‘Oh, you guys cannot play here anymore.'”

The park ranger told Louis that he and his friends needed to get a permit from the City of Miami in order to keep playing at Morningside Park.

Louis Moleron: “I told him, ‘Hey, we’ve been playing here forever,’ and I’m not sure why they are asking us for a permit. Why do I need a permit, that’s a public park?!'”

Louis says the ranger told him and his friends they had to leave.

They tried to come back the following week, and were kicked out again. That’s when they were told they were no longer allowed to play here unless they paid an $80 permit fee.

Even our 7News crew was approached by a ranger.

Park workers have been shocked by the patrols.

Elvis Cruz/park volunteer: “Louis contacted me and he said that they’d been kicked out, and I was surprised.”

Elvis Cruz is a volunteer at the park. He has known Louis and his group for years and believes he knows why this is happening.

Elvis Cruz: “Lately, there has been a full time park ranger assigned, and the city’s apparently been cracking down on business operations being run in parks. And apparently, these guys kind of got swept up in that crackdown.”

According to the city’s park rules, a permit is needed for an “organized activity, program, or event on the City of Miami parks property involving more than ten (10) People…”

The city said Louis’ soccer group was organized because it was advertising, and charging people for alcohol.

Elvis Cruz: “But these guys do not charge anything, they don’t wear uniforms, it’s not organized! Anybody can come and play.”

Louis and Elvis tried to clear up the confusion with the city.

After 7 Investigates started asking questions, the city told us it had mistaken Louis’ group for another one.

Elvis Cruz: “There’s a group that had a meetup.com website, and they were asking for money, they were drinking beer afterwards. It was somewhat organized.”

The city now says “the Saturday morning pickup group is welcome to use the field as they have, but we will continue to monitor their use and online sites to determine if any commercial activity or vending warrants a permit.”

Elvis Cruz: “That’s wonderful news. I’m glad the city saw the light and that these guys can continue enjoying the park.”

While Louis is cleared to play, he’s not sure if his group will actually feel welcomed.

Louis Moleron: “I think I will still feel under the micro, I mean, we just try to enjoy ourselves, especially on a Saturday morning, but hey, I’m happy with the result.”

And happy he can still “kick it” with his friends.

Heather Walker, 7News.


Copyright 2024 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox