Miami's Kennedy Dog Park sees improvements after new partnership, big donation

Beneful partners with city to give much-needed makeover to park

MIAMI – Broken down equipment, busted sprinklers and lots of dust were just some of the issues at Miami's Kennedy Dog Park brought to Local 10 News' attention by viewer Carter Kurth.

One person posted on Yelp.com about the park that there is "more dirt than grass" and Kurth, who said he is fed up, Called Christina.

"The dog park has just been neglected," Kurth told the Call Christina team in April.

On Wednesday, dog owners began to see improvements that have been planned since Beneful partnered with the city of Miami to bring big changes to the park, including a $20,000 donation.

The city of Miami Parks Department said it provided two picnic tables and a pallet of mulch for the purpose of hosting the check presentation and announcement of future improvements. All other amenities will be covered through Beneful's donation.

The Purina dog food brand hosted a service day at Kennedy Dog Park, where volunteers joined the city of Miami to "lend a paw" toward the park's beautification process.

Lorie Westhoff, from the Beneful Dream Dog Park Project, said the organization decided this year to have Miami as one of its next project locations.

"My team actually reached out to the city of Miami proactively earlier this year offering to support a dog park in need, and the city identified Kennedy Dog Park as a priority," Westoff said in an email.

Lara De Souza, deputy director for Miami Parks and Recreation, said she believes Beneful found the park on Yelp.com and noticed the need for improvement.

"They found this park was really popular, has a lot of feedback, but also had some mentions of improvements that were required," De Souza said. "So they reached out and asked if we would partner with them to bring new site furnishings that are going to improve quality of life."

Kurth originally Called Christina in April about the dog park in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood, claiming it has been neglected and asking for improvements. 

"The grass is dead. My dog gets filthy," Kurth said. "The sprinklers have been shut off for months."

That's when the Call Christina team reached out to District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell about the park, who agreed something needed to be done.

"I've talked to the city parks director and he's already agreed to invest in upgrading the furniture in the dog park," Russell said in April. "I think we are allocating $8,000 in the coming weeks to do exactly that. The bigger question is how to handle the dust bowl that it has become."

Now, with help from the Dream Dog Park Project, a year-long program to support a dozen dog parks nationwide, the Kennedy Dog Park is seeing improvements.

"It is awesome," dog owner Merci Fernandez said. "It was just a big pile of dirt before. She even got an infection."

Some of the newest additions include picnic tables, boulders, ramps and even hoops to jump through.

And for some dog owners, just the thought of new grass in the former field of dust is enough.

"Coming back and seeing grass is fantastic," Fernandez said.

Call Christina team member Sara Girard contributed to this story

Follow Girard on Twitter @SaraYGirard.