Saturday, April 21, 2012

Volunteers at Thalatta in place of staffing? Really Brian? Is this your best plan to comply with the Palmetto Bay commitment to provide an open public park?

In what appears to be a bizarre suggestion, Vice Mayor Brian Pariser suggested implementing a volunteer program to supplement staff, similar to the Deering Estate’s operation in Palmetto Bay.

This suggestion appears to be a sour grapes response to the public firestorm that led to Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Vice Mayor Brian Pariser backing off from the Thalatta Estate commercialization plan.  Both Mayor Stanczyk and Vice Mayor Pariser appear to actually be threatening that compliance with the Florida Community Trust (FCT) conditions for operation of Thalatta as a park will lead to a tax increase.  This is an absurd and a clear attempt to strike out and punish the residents for not bowing to their ill-conceived commercialization plans.  Staffing currently is in place.  Stanczyk and Pariser conveniently leave out the fact that there are currently 2 to 3 paid staffers on site during regular working hours – including the Palmetto Bay Program & Events Coordinator.  Her office is located at Thalatta so she can show off the Estate to any potential event renters.  So then, what additional staffing is really required to watch a passive park during normal business hours?

Volunteers in lieu of staff appears to be a well-intentioned, but not well thought out proposal from Vice Mayor Pariser who nears the end of four non-descript years in office.  I am providing interested readers (and hopefully Vice Mayor Pariser) information concerning the Deering Estate Volunteer program, including the Deering Estate Docents program.  You can see what these programs are, but more importantly, what these programs are not designed to do.

There are several components of the Deering Volunteer programs, none of these, Brian, are designed to replace service personnel or provide certainty of regular Deering Estate Park hours of operations.  The responsibilities are drastically different between Volunteers, including Docents and the Deering Estate Staff.  In fact, no mention is made in the materials given, but there is a cost for background checks, training, coordination and supervision of volunteers, something I don’t think you have considered.  This is not simply handing over the keys to the park to a friend or volunteer and asking them ‘to open up and watch the park for us, we are a little shorthanded.’

In reality Brian, we appreciate the effort, but much like the feasibility study you requested on Thalatta, I bet we will find that the cost in the time and efforts to run the program would be much more expensive and much less efficient than merely properly staffing Thalatta Estate.  This only creates more headaches for what is in really a very small, but highly dedicated Village Staff.  Volunteers may provide for some programming, such as at Deering, but that will come long after the council complies with the FCT Management plan and opens up the historic main house to the public.    

We do presently use volunteers.  Parks has a CIT (Counselors In Training) program for Village summer camps.  Groups like the Palmetto Bay Garden Club have for years provided invaluable assistance to the Village and residents on projects such as Arbor Day, State of the Village and area butterfly garden projects, but we should not misuse them as indentured servants. 

In case you are interested in volunteering, there was a recent shout out in Palmetto Bay’s April19, 2012, E-currents, “Interested in a Volunteer Position with Parks? If you've got extra time and energy, please consider volunteering at one of our many Village Parks. Contact Parks & Recreation Director Fanny Carmona for available opportunities and screening and application information” (look for it right column news capsules, 4th item down).

It is time for Brian and Shelley to quit the posturing, pouting and gamesmanship and open up Thalatta Estate as a free park for the public with regular hours.

Click “Read more” immediately below for additional information and background:

Palmetto Bay council discusses park hours, by Howard Cohen, posted online Miami Herald Friday, 4/20/2012. As reported, the meeting came as a result of the rejection of the commercialization plan for Thalatta in the face of fierce public outrage.  The strong public opposition led to even the original council sponsors of the Thalatta Estate Commercialization plan voting with the majority to kill it.  (See South Dade Updates, Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Council opposes Thalatta event facility expansion)

The debate continues to rage as members of the community along with Council member Howard Tendrich continue to push for proper access to the estate for village residents.  Remember, the FCT granted the money for a public park on the bay, not for a park to be converted into a wedding venue to make money for the village. 

Mayor Shelley Stanczyk has finally publicly conceded that the park is now open only on a limited basis, for 26 hours a week with one staffer working 28 hours. Councilman Tendrich has suggested that Thalatta Estate’s hours of public operation should be increased to a daily schedule of 10 a.m.-6 p.m. “Special events have to be limited; this was not purchased to be a money maker for the village,” per Councilman Tendrich as well as residents who have spoken loudly on this subject.

It is up to the public to join with council members Patrick Fiore and Howard Tendrich, to keep the pressure on the remaining council members to follow through on the promises made to get Thalatta Estate.  We need to keep the “Bay in Palmetto Bay.”  This is your park bought through grants that came from your tax dollars.


  1. Do you ever stop and wonder what Shelley Stanczyk and Brian Pariser are thinking? Everything is so half baked.

  2. Maybe it is time to start drug testing our elected officials.

  3. There is no reason why that park is not open Sunrise to Sunset. The walkers and bicyclists have the right to make use of that park for their exercise and enjoyment. There could be morning outdoor yoga there or Tai Chi. The mayor and council are just being brats.

  4. Stanczyk and Pariser want something for nothing. They are not going to get it. Miami-Dade County offers free tickets and other incentives to its volunteers for service. So does Coral Gables. There is a huge difference volunteering to coach football, coaching cheerleading, providing historic house tours, reading to or teaching kids/seniors crafts. Volunteers are not going to simply show up to open or close and babysit park property. This is all about avoidance. Brian and Shelley want to look like they are innovative, but all they are demonstrating is their ignorance. They want Thalatta not to be sucessful as an open park so they can trying to sell it when our backs are turned.