Construction to begin on Father Gerard Jean-Juste Community Center at Oak Grove Park
On Friday, July 21, 2017, at 11 a.m., the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department and Miami-Dade County District 2 Commissioner Jean Monestime will break ground for the new Father Gerard Jean-Juste Community Center at Oak Grove Park, 690 NE 159 St., Miami. The Center is being named in memory of Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a renowned cleric advocate for Haitian refugees and tireless crusader for social and economic justice on behalf of Haiti’s poor.
The one-story 20,000 square-foot Center will include a covered passenger drop-off entrance, a reception and lobby area, and assorted multi-purpose rooms for staff, meetings, special events, games, fitness, cultural enrichment activities, and after-school and adult programs. There will also be an 82- by 44-foot aquatics pool with a deck and splash pad with lifeguard, first-aid, and pool ticket stations, plus men’s and women’s locker rooms, restrooms, and showers.
“Championing this project has been one of the most rewarding initiatives during my time serving as Commissioner for District 2,” Commissioner Monestime shared. “This project will be more than just a beautiful, new state-of-the art Community Center; it will become an important gathering place for people of all ages and will provide educational and recreational opportunities to help better the lives of residents all the while standing as a fitting tribute to our beloved ‘Gerry’ the ‘people’s priest,’ a man who devoted his entire life and works to helping others.”
“I am pleased to see this new development underway at Oak Grove Park,” said Miami-Dade Parks Director Designee Maria Nardi. “This project marks another milestone in our Parks department’s master plan for creating a vibrant parks system with amenities that improve neighborhood living.”
Other park improvements will include new landscaping, lighted walkway and parking areas, a new detached restroom building, and new 1,200 square-foot band shell. A new gazebo is also on the way for the park, a donation provided through Miami-Dade County’s Art in Public Places program, which enlists professional artists to create landmark art installations for County public spaces.
The approximate cost to complete the new development is $11.2 million. Funding is being provided by the “Building Better Communities” General Obligation Bond program.
Born in Cavaillon, Haiti, Father Jean-Juste became the first Haitian ordained as a Catholic priest in the United States. While living and working at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, he earned bachelor’s degrees in engineering technology and civil engineering from Northeastern University (1974-77). He later established the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami as part of his efforts to help Haitian immigrants win greater asylum consideration and to protect their due process rights. Always appearing positive in the face of challenges, his slogan was “Piti, Piti, na rive” (“Little by little we will arrive.”) He passed away on May 27, 2009 at the age of 62, after a four year battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
The 22-acre park features a five-acre lake, a three-acre hardwood hammock, a small recreation center, a lighted soccer field, and lighted parking. Two years ago, the park added four new tennis courts, new walkways, and new benches.
Miami-Dade Parks is the third largest county park system in the United States, consisting of 270 parks and 13,573 acres of land. It is one of the most unique park and recreation systems in the world and focused on Placemaking, Health and Fitness and Conservation and Stewardship. The non-profit Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade supports Miami-Dade Parks’ efforts to further develop Miami-Dade County’s world-class parks system for residents and visitors.