The Ineffability of Olympia Heights

Daniel Perez

A Little Bit About Me:

Hello, my name is Daniel Perez. I am currently studying as a mechanical engineering major at FIU. I was born and raised in the city of Miami, as the first generation born in the United States from a Cuban background. I was brought up in the land of sexy people, summer fun year-round, and everyone owning a Ferrari or something like that. So of course, I wanted to see even more of my home. This semester I decided to take part in the Miami in Miami class, a leadership class designed to act as a study abroad without being abroad. It focuses on the smaller and more intricate details of Miami. As a class, we each decided to investigate one neighborhood within the city of Miami. I chose to attempt to describe the incredibleness of one of my city’s neighborhoods; Olympia Heights. I grew up spending a lot of my childhood in this neighborhood, either spending my time at the super popular Tropical Park, or spending time with my friends that went to school at Pinecrest.

Location, Location, Location:

Olympia Heights is situated within two main streets, Bird Road and 58th street, otherwise known as Miller Drive. The neighborhood is approximately 3 square miles of which, 2.7 square miles of it is land and 0.3 square miles of it is water. It has three parks and three lakes but has one major and notable green space; the jewel of Olympia Heights; Tropical Park.

The People:

As of the United states Census of 2000 there were 13,488 people within the neighborhood of Olympia Heights. There is an approximate population density of 5,0845 people every square mile. This is distributed amongst the average housing density of 1,555 per square mile. A fun fact is that there was a 64.4% population decline between the Censuses of 1990 and 2000 as a result of the creation of a nearby neighborhood region; University Park.

The racial make-up of Olympia heights consists of 96.6% white of which 8.7% were non-Hispanic White, 1.8% are African American,.6% Asian, and those of two or more races were .6% as of the 2010 United States Census.

A fun fact, that as of 2000, Olympia Heights had the 6th highest percentage of Cuban residents in the US, holding 57.85% of its population coming from Cuban decent, the neighborhood also ranked in 77th in Colombian residencies and 25th in Nicaraguan residents.

More interesting though is the age make up. The community has an elderly population. Considering that 20.3% of those living within the neighborhood are 65 years of age or older. This appears to hold up another of Miami’s, or well Florida’s stereotypes that it is a popular location for retirement. The area also had a slightly smaller youth population as only 15.4% are 18 years of age and younger, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 26.1% from 45 to 64. There also appears to be a slight inequality amongst the gender distribution as for every 100 females there were 91.8 males.

Parks and Recreation:

Within Olympia Heights resides three green spaces. These are Blue Lakes Park, Miller Drive Park and the famous 257-acre urban park that is Tropical Park. The park is a major point of interest for those who both live and visit the neighborhood. It features a huge variety of landscapes and areas to enjoy Miami’s sunny weather. One could take a stroll or run or bike through the paved trails that take you throughout the park’s natural areas, its open fields, alongside the shores of its lakes and passed the grass fields. Its open lawns are one of its best features along with covered picnic shelters, which can be rented to host get-together and parties.

I also believe the park holds Miami’s highest land elevation point, there is a tall hill that is located past the 40th Street area of the park. Tropical Park’s Hill is the perfect place to stand and fly kites, you will find kids running up and down its slope and even a few daredevils riding down the slope on their bikes. The park also features an abundance of facilities for those of us who are more athletically inclined. Things like basketball courts, racquetball courts, tennis courts, and fields for just about every major sport like baseball and soccer. A full football field where local high school teams usually reserve to come together and compete. They even make use of the lakes on the park grounds, there visitors can use paddleboats and fish. Visitors also have access to a 2 – acre dog park, which is divided up depending on size of the dog to better prevent your furry friends from getting hurt during rough play.  

Tropical Park also has a number of facilities such as boxing and fitness centers, which offer annual and daily memberships that include boxing classes, as well as bootcamps, conditioning, personal training and self- defense classes. Tropical Park also has the Ronald Reagan Equestrian Center. It hosts more than 36 horse shows a year. The center is huge, it contains 3 state of the art show arenas, two grass courses, seating for 1000 and one promenade. It even has recreational vehicle hookups and stands to sell concessions. You can also rent out the horse stalls during non-event dates.

The park also hosts a variety of events. For example, the Southwest Community Farmers’ Market occurs every Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm all year round. The market is set up just past its Bird Road entrance. They also host seasonal events such as Santa’s Enchanted Forest during the winter months, which is a type of county fair. The event sports a huge assortment of rides, attractions, food, and drink.

Monuments:

Within the neighborhood’s area there are three memorials dedicated to law enforcement and to those that have given their lives in the line of duty to keep our community safe. They are located with the grounds of Tropical Park. These are the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Tribute to 9-1-1 memorial, and the Miami-Dade K-9 Memorial.

The Law Enforcement Officers Memorial was placed in 1980 to honor fallen officers from any department or agency. The granite structure was revealed in May of 1981, and the four black granite walls were put up in 2001, these have been engraved with the names of the men and women who gave their lives serving the citizens of the community. Today it has a total of 143 names etched into it.

The 9-1-1 Memorial stands as two five-foot towers that were placed in 2002 to commemorate the law enforcement that were killed when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. An annual ceremony is held to honor those who sacrificed themselves on the site of the attack.

The Miami-Dade K-9 Memorial was dedicated on August 14, 2009 to honor all police canines that died in service to the Miami-Dade community. Particularly those 8 that are memorialized on the wall. These police canines are in fact the ones to serve man who serves mankind.

The People’s Thoughts:

I had the chance to talk to some people about how they felt about living in Miami and then how they felt within the neighborhood. I prepared a few stock questions pertaining to how and if they interact with their neighborhoods, if they felt unsafe at any time in the area, especially at night, if there are any events within the area, and how they felt about their daily lives, along with some variance depending on how the conversations went.

Typical answers to most of my questions expressed that the neighborhood is predominantly occupied by an older crowd. People feel like their neighbors are nice and can be helpful to deal with problems in their area. One fellow neighbor expressed how they were helped after a hurricane by the younger folks on their block. Generally, the residents feel safe and at night they even take walks around their neighborhoods. They rave about having a great park less than 5 minutes away from their homes, where they can relax or workout on their own or with their friends and family. 

There were a few negative aspects to the area, but those were just general complaints about the city of Miami. Things like humid weather and heavy traffic flow. However, commuters feel at ease as residents live within two main streets; Bird Street and Miller Drive.

Overall, residence of the neighborhood and those in area around like myself feel like Olympia heights is a place that is safe and friendly, along with some minor inconveniences, but allows for people to enjoy the outdoors and come together to enjoy events hosted at Tropical Park.

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