Town reopens parks; Shula's Golf Course draws 100 players

Sports By Linda Trischitta, Editor and David Snelling, Reporter Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Manuel Castaneda prepared to tee off Wednesday at Shula’s Golf Course in Miami Lakes.
Castaneda was among more than 100 golfers who flocked to the historic course after Miami-Dade County and Miami Lakes opened parks and golf courses, part of the first phase of venturing outdoors after six weeks of sheltering at home during the coronavirus outbreak.
Golf carts were hustling along the paths and there were lots of smiles among golfers who, like Castaneda, were excited to be outdoors again and hitting balls.
“The quarantine was killing me,” said Castaneda, who was celebrating his 37th birthday and drove south from Broward County to play that morning. He’s been forced to practice putting in his garage.
“Before [the COVID-19 outbreak], I would play every weekend,” Castaneda said.
The town of Miami Lakes reopened its three largest parks but limited activities to casual play.
Large crowds and organized team sports, including basketball, are prohibited in town parks; exercise stations are off limits, too.
Town officials announced the changes during a news conference Wednesday while opening Royal Oaks Park, 16500 NW 87 Ave.
Also open for walkers, joggers and bicyclists are Miami Lakes Optimist Park, 6411 NW 162 St., and Picnic Park West, 15151 NW 82nd Ave.
Balls may be tossed between two people, "Like a father and son throwing a football or throwing a baseball, that type of thing," Town Manager Edward Pidermann said.
Walkers must travel in the same direction.
Everybody must continue to wear face masks.
Town officials said park staff, security guards and officers from the Miami-Dade Police Dept.’s Miami Lakes District will enforce social distancing while residents enjoy the green spaces.
There are 100 parks in town and most of those, including tot lots, swings and slides; community centers, athletic fields, pavilions and the K-9 Cove dog park remain closed.
Pidermann said it was the first phase of returning to normal life since authorities’ orders in mid-March to shelter at home in an effort to limit crowds and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Boaters and riders of personal watercraft must keep 50 feet between vessels and may not tie together.
Reopening non-essential businesses such as nail salons, spas and barbershops will be part of phase two in the return to normalcy, but no timetable was given.
At Picnic Park West, Van and Vivian Toth had the walking paths to themselves.
“We missed it a lot,” Vivian Toth said. The couple live nearby.
“It’s very nice because we can walk or run,” she said.
The Toths said they were surprised they were the only people there.
“I think people are scared,” Vivian Toth said.
Residents are not allowed to bring picnic tables, barbeque grills or tents to the parks, Pidermann said.
Social distancing is also in effect at Shula’s Golf Course, where the putting green was open but the driving range remains closed.
Only one golfer may use a cart, and they must carry their own gear and wear face masks.
Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid said opening the parks was “a glimmer of hope” during the outbreak.
The number of coronavirus cases in Miami Lakes has held steady at 43 for the past five days, Pidermann said.
He said during the peak of the pandemic, Miami Lakes experienced 1 to two new cases of COVID-19 a day.
"It’s a testament to how serious Miami Lakers have taken the guidance of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and other medical professionals in [wearing] the facial coverings and [practicing] social distancing," Pidermann said.
He warned that it was important to continue to follow the guidelines recommended by health experts.
“We cannot let our guard down too soon,” Pidermann said. “We don’t want to see a resurgence of the COVID- 19.”
He predicted that if residents maintain social distancing, wear masks and wash hands, “soon we’ll see a loosening of the stranglehold this virus has had on our lives. …The light that we see at the end of the tunnel is not a freight train. Don’t worry. It is sunshine.”

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