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Great Parks

The first "layer" of the vision is a great parks system. Great cities have great park systems with beautiful parks, public plazas, and outstanding natural features. Because human beings have a basic need for parks and open space, to reconnect with nature. Communities without adequate open space are dreary and depressing, socially, aesthetically and economically. While parks systems in the past were thought of as "amenities," communities across the country now realize just how much value these park systems bring to their locales.

A great parks system:

  • Stimulates the physical, mental, and spiritual potential of individuals.
  • Fosters good schools, jobs, housing, public transportation, clean air, and safety.
  • Encourages a harmonious relationship between man and nature.
  • Helps conserve energy and natural resources.
  • Brings quality to the physical, social, economic, and cultural environment.
  • Provides balanced and diverse recreational opportunities.
  • Takes advantage of its unique features, climate, geography, population, history, and industry, and expresses them through design.
  • Understands a community's roots.
  • Involves people in the planning and use of projects.

Positioning for the Future

To position the department for the future, the Miami-Dade Parks System needs to be flexible across a wide range of contexts and based on delivering services rather than just on acreage and population. The current model for parks that is based on a suburban development context primarily automobile dependent and assumes the availability of large tracks of land for parks development. This model will not work in a County that is experiencing much of its growth through redevelopment and increased density.

The new model for parks acknowledges that the need for parks varies widely across the County depending on the development context and the demographics and lifestyles of a particular area. To this end, the criteria developed for the new parks system is based on recreation needs and experiences in a particular location within the rural to urban context.

More Great Parks Information

Great Park Summit

  • 2016

    The sixth Great Parks Summit took place Apr. 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus. It showcased the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces 50-year plan for connecting Miami-Dade County communities. Using parks, public spaces, natural and cultural areas, greenways, waterways and streets to bring people and parks together, the plan helps to solve some of our city's most pressing problems.

    The Summit highlighted innovative planning designs, current trends in the field of planning and experts from around the country shared ideas and best practices in the fields of parks and recreation.

    Compelling speakers and interactive sessions focused on the three pillars of Parks: Placemaking, Conservation, and Health and Fitness.

    Summit Speakers

    Peter Kageyama is the author of "For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places" and the follow up, "Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places." In 2012, Planetizen recognized "For the Love of Cities" as a Top 10 Book in urban planning, design and development.

    He is the former President of Creative Tampa Bay, a grassroots community change organization and the co-founder of the Creative Cities Summit, an interdisciplinary conference that brings citizens and practitioners together around the big idea of "the city." Kageyama is a Senior Fellow with the Alliance for Innovation, a national network of city leaders that is dedicated to improving the practice of local government. He is an internationally sought-after community development consultant and grassroots engagement strategist who speaks all over the world about bottom-up community development and the amazing people who are making change happen.

    Gabe Klein joined Fontinalis Partners as a Special Venture Partner on their new fund in 2015. He also advises on a number of technology/transportation startups, including Bridj, a next-gen flexible mass-transit company to help build the business model, financials and partnerships to scale the company.

    In 2014, he had a six-month Fellowship at The Urban Land Institute where he traveled around the U.S., speaking about entrepreneurial public leadership and positioning transportation as a transformative public investment. Klein is a board member of NACTO and Streetsblog, He grew up in the cycling industry as is an avid cyclist. Klein's work has been featured in many major news outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Washington Business Journal, Bloomberg and many more. Klein holds a Marketing Management degree from Virginia Tech University.

    Deborah Marton joined New York Restoration Project (NYRP) in 2011, bringing her extensive experience moving complex municipal projects from conception to actionable conclusions.

    As Executive Director of NYRP, she manages NYRP's work transforming open space in underserved communities to create a greener, more sustainable New York City. She oversees all organizational activities, ranging from park restoration and operations in Northern Manhattan, renovation and maintenance of NYRP's 52 community gardens, and implementation of MillionTreesNYC in partnership with the NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation.

    She developed NYRP's identity as an urban land conservancy working across municipal jurisdictions to increase environmental sustainability citywide. Most recently, she created the vision and program for a waterfront site in Northern Manhattan that will be developed as a center for recreational boating and environmental education.

    Prior to joining NYRP, Marton served as Executive Director of Design Trust for Public Space. She was also Program Manager of New York City Parks Natural Resources Group and was associated with the landscape architecture firm Field Operations. She received a master's degree in Landscape Architecture from the Harvard University Design School and also holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law.

    Juan Martinez is the Director of Leadership Development and the Natural Leaders Network at the Children & Nature Network. He dedicates his energy on grassroots campaigns to empower, explore, and create positive change. He was named a National Geographic Explorer, TED Speaker and is a proud product of south central Los Angeles.

    His passion to empower youth led him to direct Sierra Club's first environmental justice youth leadership academy in Los Angeles. Martinez was recognized by the National Science Teachers Association's Multicultural and Equity Committee for his work as a Global Explorer. He represents The North Face as an ambassador for outdoor engagement and his adventures include reaching the Summit of the Grand Teton with famed mountain climber Conrad Anker.

    Martinez stars in the documentary film "Love in the Tetons," which chronicles his compelling journey that lead him to the Tetons, and to meeting his wife Vanessa. The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and was a finalist in the Banff Film Festival. In 2012, The Sierra Club Foundation Board elected Martinez to its memberships (their youngest ever); he is former Murie Center Explorer in Residence in Grand Teton National Park, WY.

    Notable Speakers

    • Honorable Dennis Moss, Commissioner, Miami-Dade County
    • Joanna Lombard, Professor, University of Miami School of Architecture
    • Leo Alvarez, Design Principal, Perkins+Will
    • Tony Cho, Founder & CEO, Metro 1
    • Greg Guannel, Urban Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy
    • Stuart Kennedy, Director of Program Strategy and Innovation, The Miami Foundation
  • 2014

    Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, together with The Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade and generous sponsors, hosted the 2014 Great Park Summit on Friday, April 4, 2014 from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road in Coral Gables.

    The summit included nationally-recognized guest speakers and exhibitors showcasing a host of park-centric and sustainable programs, products and services.

    To learn more, call John Gouthro at 305-755-7868, email him at

    Speakers & Presenters

    Parks and Recreation professionals, environmental organizations, patrons of the arts, elected and governmental officials and others engaged discussion about enhancing regions through innovative design, planning and stewardship of public space.

    Speech Videos

  • 2012

    Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department hosted the fourth Great Park Summit, Wednesday, April 18, 2012.  The theme was "Partnerships Through Creative Initiatives."

    Speakers & Presenters

    Speakers discussed the benefits of parks with a focus on the significant role that parks and open space can play in the community such as promoting economic vitality, health and general neighborhood revitalization. Strategies that create parks and open space as a result of a unique nationwide initiative like Red Fields to Green Fields were highlighted.

  • 2010

    The 2010 Great Park Summit took place on March 5, 2010, at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. The theme was Partnerships/An Economic, Social and Environmental Health Plan.

    Speakers & Presenters

    Keynote Speaker - Steve Coleman
    Steve Coleman has forged community park partnerships across the District of Columbia, and he is a leader in the growing international urban parks movement, assisting urban park partnerships across the country and beyond. Beginning with the youth drive he co-founded 30 years ago to restore a forgotten stream valley park, Coleman has mobilized tens of thousands of people and raised millions of dollars to reclaim, restore, and revitalize once-forgotten parks. As Executive Director and President of Washington Parks & People, he leads the capital's 20-year-old alliance of public/private parks partnerships, managing partnerships for park restoration and park-based community health, job training, and education.

    Coleman's work has won commendations from the Conservation Fund, the National Park Foundation, the National Congress for Community Economic Development, the National Park Service, the United States Park Police, and the President of the United States (Partnership Leadership Award). A trustee of the National Recreation and Park Association and the City Parks Alliance, he has been guest speaker at numerous regional, national, and international parks conferences. Coleman also serves as chair of Parks for Life: the International Urban Parks and Green Space Alliance.

    Harvey Ruvin
    Harvey Ruvin has 35 years of public service that includes 20 years as a Miami-Dade County Commissioner. Throughout his career, he has proven to be a successful advocate for the environment. As a County Commissioner, Mr. Ruvin sponsored ordinances, referenda and projects that protected the environment, including a $90 million tax levy for the purchase and maintenance of endangered lands, the re-nourishment of Haulover Beach and the restoration and enhancement of Biscayne Bay.

    Serving on numerous civic organizations and councils, Mr. Ruvin has made an impact on national and international levels. He was a delegate to the United Nations World Congress for a Sustainable Future, a member of President Carter's Council on Energy Efficiency and President Clinton's Sustainable Communities Task Force of the President's Council on Sustainable Development, and most recently, Mr. Ruvin is Chair of the Board of County Commissioners Task Force on Climate Change.

    Jack Kardys
    Jack Kardys is the Director of the accredited Miami-Dade Park & Recreation Department, the third largest park system in the country with 262 parks on 12,668 acres of land. It serves 2.5 million residents and 10 million visitors annually. Dedicating his career to public service, he has served the Department for more than 29 years. Daily, Miami-Dade Parks plays a vital role in developing a healthier, more comfortable and environmentally-conscious lifestyle in Miami-Dade County. Its facilities, programs and services have been recognized with the NRPA National Gold Medal Award and the 2009 Florida Governor's Sterling Award for excellence in management. The Parks and Open Space System Master Plan has established the blueprint for further improving the quality of life in Miami and transforming it into a more livable, loveable and sustainable place to live. Together with the collaboration of community partners, the plan will enhance the community's health, environment, social well-being, and its economic prosperity.

    Kevin Caravati
    Kevin Caravati is a Senior Research Scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), the applied research arm of the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has nearly 25 years of experience in environmental programs, working primarily in the Southeast. He received his B.S. degree in Geology from the University of Dayton, Ohio, and a M.S. in Geology-Hydrogeology track from the University of South Florida. He earned an MBA from the Stetson School of Business and Economics at Mercer University in Atlanta. He began work with GTRI in 2002.

    The Red Fields to Green Fields project was initiated in Atlanta in July 2009 with the Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and has been expanded to include five additional cities in ­the US. Scientists, engineers, economists, policy makers, and a broad range of stakeholders are engaged on this national effort to address economic challenges and the potential opportunities.

    Peter Neal Wood
    Peter Neal Wood, MPA has served on the staff of the Health Foundation of South Florida in Miami, Florida since January 2001. Within his current position as Vice President of Programs and Community Investments, he is responsible for the development and management of all grantmaking programs and processes. He is the Chair of the Miami Dade County Health and the Built Environment Committee, a part of the Consortium for a Healthier Miami Dade. Peter also serves as on the Board of Directors and as Treasurer of Grantmakers in Aging.

    For the seven years prior to joining the staff at the Foundation, Peter conducted research and provided public management consulting on a range of state health and social issues at the University of Washington's Institute for Public Policy and Management. Before his employment at the University of Washington, he earned a Masters in Public Policy and Administration from that University's Daniel J. Evans Schools of Public Affairs.


    • 8 a.m. - 8:45 a.m.
      Registration; Complimentary Continental Breakfast; Exhibitors
    • 8:45 a.m. - 9  a.m.
      Welcoming Remarks from Bruce Greer; President; Board of Trustees; Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
    • 9 a.m. - 9:30  a.m.
      Opening Remarks from Honorable Carlos Alvarez, Miami-Dade County Mayor; Honorable Carlos A. Gimenez, Miami-Dade County Commissioner, District 7; George M. Burgess, Miami-Dade County Manager; Jack Kardys, Director, Miami-Dade County Park and Recreation Department

    Morning Session: Presiding - Harvey Ruvin, Clerk of Courts, Miami-Dade County; Chair, Board of County Commissioners Task Force on Climate Change

    • 9:30 a.m. - 10:30  a.m.
      Steve Coleman, Executive Director & President, Washington Parks & People; Topic: Parks for People: Rediscovering the Power of the Village Green
    • 10:30 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.
      Kevin Caravati, P.G., Senior Research Scientist, Georgia Tech Research Institute; Topic: Parks Rescue…Economy/Health/Environment
    • 11:15 a.m. - Noon
      Jack Kardys, Director, Miami-Dade Park and Recreation Department; Topic: Park and Open Space System Master Plan Implementation
    • Noon - 1 p.m.
      Complimentary Lunch; Exhibitors

    Afternoon Session: Presiding - Harvey Ruvin, Clerk of Courts, Miami-Dade County; Chair, Board of County Commissioners Task Force on Climate Change

    • 1 p.m. - 2 p.m.
      Peter N. Wood, MPA, Vice President of Programs & Community Investments, Health Foundation of South Florida; Topic: Health and the Built Environment
    • 2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
      Closing Remarks from W. Howard Gregg, Deputy Director, Miami-Dade County Park and Recreation Department
      CHALLENGE: Get Fit - It's a Walk in the Park

    Our Sponsors

    • Emerald Sponsor ($10,000)
    • Palmetto Truck Center
    • Forest Level Sponsor ($5,000)
      • Sonesta Bayfront Hotel Coconut Grove
    • Jade Level Sponsor ($2,500)
      • PBS&J
      • Recreational Design & Construction
      • URS Corporation
      • Bacardi USA
      • Rep Services, Inc.
    • Sage ($1000)
      • Vortex Aquatic Structures Int'l, Inc.
      • Shade Systems, Inc.
      • Rosenberg Gardner Design
      • Forbes Architects
      • Health Foundation of South Florida
      • AECOM / Glatting Jackson
      • Curtis + Rogers Design Studio, Inc.
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      • EAS Engineering, Inc.
      • Kimley - Horn & Associates, Inc.
      • Municipal Lighting Systems, Inc.
      • University of Miami
    • Pine ($250)
      • Marlin Engineering, Inc.
  • 2008

    The Great Park Summit 2008 took place March 14, 2008 at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens and brought leaders, visionaries, and activists together to share an inspirational vision for a more livable and sustainable South Florida.

    The event marked the completion of the planning process for Miami-Dade County Park and Recreation's new Park and Open Space System Master Plan, a policy framework and visionary document that will guide development and stewardship of parks and conservation open space into the 21st century.

    The Park and Open Space System Master Plan began with the Great Park Summit 2006 when the Miami-Dade County community engaged in a dialogue about creating a sustainable South Florida through the lens of a park system. The new Park and Open Space System Master Plan envisions connecting communities through a public realm of parks, public spaces, natural and cultural areas, greenways, waterways and streets. These connections will form a green framework that will enhance the overall quality of life for residents and visitors, preserve and protect parks and open space, and achieve a strong position in the local economy.

    At the 2008 summit, landscape architects, architecture and urban planning professionals, elected officials, governmental administrators, environmental activists, patrons of the arts, businesses, academia, and citizens engaged in a discussion about enhancing South Florida through innovative planning and stewardship of the public realm with a full day of lectures, a panel discussion, and exhibitions led by international leaders in public space advocacy.

    It is clear that the creation of a model park system in South Florida cannot be considered as an isolated system, but one that is integrated into the overall fabric of the community. We hope you share with us our vision to create a vibrant community that provides residents and visitors of Miami-Dade County a greener, healthier place to live, work and play.

  • 2006

    National and local leaders gathered to speak about parks, conservation open space and sustainable approaches to urban design. But most importantly, officially launched the two-year Open Space Master Plan initiative.

    The 2006 Summit, kicked off the public planning process to prepare a new Open Space Master Plan for the Miami-Dade Park and Recreation Department, it served to initiate a dialogue throughout the community about the significant contribution of parks, recreation and conservation open space to the health and economic vitality of the South Florida community.

    The Great Parks Summit kicks-off a two-year process to create a new Open Space Master Plan, which will replace the existing Open Space Master Plan created in 1969 by Miami-Dade Parks' first director, A.D. Barnes. The previous Open Space Master Plan is now complete and has successfully guided the County's Park and Recreation Department in the development of the third largest park system in the nation, a system that now totals over 12,000 acres and includes more than 250 sites. In addition, Miami-Dade Park and Recreation has been recognized as a leader in the nation in providing recreational programs to a large, diverse community.

    The new Open Space Master Plan will continue where the other one leaves off to guide future park development and stewardship into the 21st century. It will provide a vision for connecting parks to each other and to neighborhoods through tree-lined streets, parkways, boulevards, trails and waterways for greater recreational opportunities and connections between people and the built and natural environment.

    The Master Plan will be a pro-active tool to comprehensively address Miami-Dade County citizens' desire for a livable green community; a policy document that provides a long-term vision for a connected park system that includes active and passive demands for recreation and conservation open space needs of residents and tourists.


    Speakers include Fred Kent, President of Project for Public Spaces who will speak about "Building Cities Around Places;" Jim Bowen, Vice President of RiverCity Company who will discuss "Building Strong Private-Public Partnerships: The Tennessee Riverpark Project;" Charles Jordan, Chairman of The Conservation Fund who will speak about "A Progressive Park System: Removing Boundaries and Forging Partnerships."


    In the afternoon, there was a panel discussion on the topic of "Toward Sustainability: A Regional Approach" featuring a presentation by Audrey Bennett, Director of Planning and Environmental Service Branch for the Ontario Greenbelt Project. The discussion leaders include Dan Kimball, Everglades National Park Superintendent; Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Principal, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., and Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Miami; and George Jones, District 5 Bureau Chief of the Division of Florida State Parks.

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