Adrian D. "Doug" Barnes (1903-1986) received the local level Pugsley Medal in 1954 "for outstanding work in developing the Dade County Park System." He was born in 1903 in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. He graduated from Massachusetts Agricultural College, subsequently renamed the University of Massachusetts, with a BS degree in landscape architecture. In 1925 after his graduation, Barnes joined the Miami Parks Department and was responsible for planting Bayfront Park and many of the sable palms and royal poinciana trees along Miami Avenue.
In 1929, Barnes became the first employee of the Dade County Parks System when it was a division of the Road and Bridge Department, because at that time parks were conceptualized as being "roadside improvements." His office was a single desk in the county courthouse in a cubbyhole room he shared with the county engineer. He was married in that year, and his wife recalls that Barnes took the Saturday afternoon and Sunday off, but went to work the following Monday morning. This was typical of the man. It was a trademark of his devotion to his park work which he really never left, nor did it leave him. He carried his ideas, plans and work with him wherever he went. His absences from his desk were few and never lengthy.
His first projects were tree plantings along Old Dixie Highway and Coral Way. The Dixie Highway trees grew alongside the U.S. 1 highway forming a green arch that was one of the most pleasant drives in the entire county. Old timers remember the huge banyans and their cooling shade. It was a rural, laidback county then and fruit stands sprang up among the trees as the road curved and wound south. All this was to change as progress hit Miami. By the fifties the last of the banyans came down, the road was straightened and widened and the fruit stands had made their last stand. Coral Way is now designated as an historic and scenic route. The magnificent banyan trees that line it were planted as seedlings by hand by Barnes and his wife Louise on July 4, 1929: "We dug holes in the cool rock," Barnes said.
From these inauspicious beginnings in 1929, Barnes devoted the next 40 years until his retirement in 1969 to greening Dade County. He was a lean man, quiet and self-effacing. He conveyed the feeling that he was more comfortable in work clothes than a suit, and more at ease with a shovel in his hand than a bureaucrat's pen. He was a visionary. When it comes to spending tax money, parks are rarely high on the priority list of elected officials, but Barnes succeeded in establishing an outstanding parks system in Dade County.
The first major county park was 80 acres of virgin hammock land obtained from a civic minded pioneer, William Matheson, who wanted the land to be used as a park "to preserve the wild and natural beauty." It became Matheson Hammock and grew by stages to its current 630 acres.
Doug Barnes scored a major coup three years later when he persuaded the Civilian Conservation Corps to establish its first camp in the state. Then he persuaded the county to acquire, as the CCC's base, 105 acres of scarred rock pits, pines and scrubby land from A. O. Greynolds in North Dade. Rockpits were turned into blue-water lakes, coral rock was mined on the site using hand labor and old cable-cutting methods and more trees were planted. Picnic areas were laid out to plan and trails built. In the end old machinery was stacked in the center and covered up with coral rock fill and dirt to become Dade County's highest land point and the most distinguishing feature of Greynolds Park -- The Mound. It rises 42 feet! The park today is a 232-acre treasure. The CCC crews then were assigned to Matheson Hammock in 1936 and began to develop that Bayfront Park area. Coral rock buildings rose and the picnic area had a coral rock shelter. Without the use of the inexpensive and skilled labor force under the state and federal assistance programs, it would have been impossible to build the miles of carefully-hewn coral rock walls and native stone buildings. The quality of the CCC�s work was verified in 1945 when a hurricane resulted in 12 foot waves rolling over Matheson Hammock causing immense damage to equipment and furnishings, and depositing layers of mud and trash in the park, but the basic CCC structures stood firm and the park recovered.
During the war years, Barnes went away in 1942 as a lieutenant in the cavalry. He retired from active duty in 1946 as a major. When he returned, he found the park system much as he had left it. He spent 18 months overseas in England, France and Belgium and came back impressed with the French National Forests. "Villagers have the privilege of picking up dead and fallen wood in it," he said, "but it would never occur to them to break even the smallest twig."
In 1947 a new causeway called "Rickenbacker" after America's leading World War I ace, was opened leading to some coconut-bearing land on Key Biscayne fronting the ocean for nearly two miles. The land had been acquired from the heirs of William Matheson as a gift conveyed so that the lands "shall be perpetually used and maintained for public park purposes only." The only cost to Dade County for this 903 acres of land was $3,339 for 1940 taxes. It was named after Charles Crandon, County Commissioner, who was a leading Barnes supporter in the fight to acquire public lands. In 1941 the county acquired 1,228 acres of submerged lands adjacent to Key Biscayne and Virginia Key from the State of Florida Internal Improvement Fund at a cost of $3,070. The new causeway opened this area to Miami residents and visitors from the north for the first time. Crandon Park was laid out from an aerial-mapped survey. The only changes since that time have been the moving of the aquarium (now Seaquarium) from the park to the causeway near Virginia Key and the inclusion of a grand zoo south of the south parking lot.
The zoo was started in 1948 when a small traveling carnival was stranded near Miami and the county purchased six animals at a cost of $270. These animals were three monkeys, one goat and two black bears. The animals made up the first county zoo in Crandon Park. From this small beginning arose Metro Zoo, one of the finest tropical zoos in the nation with 1,200 animals on display in modern open settings separated by moat areas.
Another of Barnes' early projects was Haulover Beach Park. In the early 1900s an old fisherman by the name of "Baker" built a shack on a narrow strip of land between the ocean and Biscayne Bay north of Miami Beach. For a small fee, Baker assisted fishermen in hauling their skiffs over this narrow portage and the area got its odd name -- Baker's Haulover. Barnes incrementally acquired 177 acres of this park between 1935 and 1942 for $766,000. With the purchase of these lands the park department became proprietor of the Lighthouse Restaurant (which burned down in 1967), a trailer park and a charter fishing boat dock. There was also a small restaurant located on the bayside dock area. In 1944 the county took over the trailer park area and ran it. Tenants paid $20 a month each for rental of space. The dock restaurant, which was later demolished in 1950, was leased out for $40 a month. The 14 charter boats paid 10% of their gross receipts in return for dockage. With the coming of World War II, Haulover Beach Park development and all others were postponed until 1945. In 1953-54 a lease agreement was entered into to construct a fishing pier out into the ocean.
The Recreation Division of the Park and Recreation Department was activated in May 1958. It grew tremendously in the next eleven years to include: 40 Recreation Centers, a football stadium, three tennis centers, ten swimming pools with four more under construction, and 60 ball diamonds with lighting for 20 of them. Year-round outdoor and indoor craft activities and sports were conducted by the Recreation Division and a large Showmobile brought entertainment to the people.
When Barnes retired in 1969, he had developed a large diversified park and recreation department that attracted 18 million visits a year. The department's operating budget exceeded $5 million, and its staff was comprised of 800 full-time and 450 part-time employees. The parks area was over 7000 acres.
Bill Bird (Pugsley Medal 1988) who was recruited to Dade County by Barnes recalled:
"He was a true gentleman of impeccable integrity. Each morning when he looked in the mirror he would say to himself, 'To thine own self be true' and this was his mantra. It was a maxim he taught which I used to guide my professional life. He was known by everybody as 'Mister Barnes', such was the respect with which he was regarded by everyone with whom he came into contact."Dade County's "Mr. Parks" was associated with many professional organizations including serving as president of the American Institute of Park Executives in 1956. Doug Barnes' vision and powers of persuasion attracted civic and political leaders to the parks' cause and fueled decades of parks expansion. He knew that in time growth would gobble up available land, rendering it far too expensive for parks. He lived to see that happen. However, part of his legacy was raising the consciousness of Dade's residents and elected officials which put parks high among the county's priorities. This was reflected in the county's historic 1972 Decade of Progress Bond Issue, which generated such major new regional parks as Tropical Park and Tamiami. At the time of Barnes' death in 1986, Dade County had the sixth largest local parks and recreation department in the nation, with over 400 separate facilities covering more than 11,000 developed acres. Barnes left an extraordinary legacy.
Stark, Jack (1969). The way it was. Dade County Park and Recreation News, August.
Whited, Charles (1986). Parks Pioneer Had Big Impact on Dade Life. Miami Herald. July 10.
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