The Coastal Star

Boca Raton: City consultant gathers input on plan for waterfront parks

Boca Raton residents brainstorm and write down ideas for the city’s waterfront properties

that they shared with the rest of the forum.

In the foreground, the hand of resident Sarah Crew pushes down a green dot

to vote on what she found appealing for the future of Boca Raton’s waterfront parks.

Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Steve Plunkett

    People with kayaks or paddleboards may be the big winners in Boca Raton’s long-term plans for what to do with the city’s waterfront parks.
    In an inventory of 14 parks that touch water, consulting land planner EDSA Inc. said nine of them could accommodate a launch site for kayakers or paddleboard enthusiasts. The parks range in size from 76.3-acre Spanish River Park to 0.2-acre Carriage Hill Park off Southwest 14th Drive.
    And undeveloped Ocean Strand, which is owned by the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District and was included in the survey at the district’s request, could be the future home of an “eco-style restaurant,” EDSA’s Kona Gray said.
    “You know, if your daughter’s with you and she needs to get something to drink, you’re not going to leave the park and go somewhere else. You’d love to be able to find a nice vendor and get her a hot dog,” said Gray, who led a nearly two-hour session April 3 at the Downtown Library to collect input from city residents for a comprehensive waterfront plan Boca Raton is creating.
    Gray asked the roughly 50 residents who attended to sit in groups of eight or fewer and determine the most important aspects of the waterfront properties, how they would like to interact with the water, what people should feel when they go to the parks and what changes would enhance quality of life. They also stuck green dots on photos they liked of possible park features grouped under six categories: recreation, interaction, events, water activities, relaxation and education.
    Joe Pedalino, who volunteers at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, said he would add a seventh category.
    “After 9/11 one of the things we found at Gumbo Limbo is that people were going … into the boardwalks because they felt peace and serenity. And to me that’s one of the things that our parks and beaches give our visitors and our residents and our friends and neighbors and family,” Pedalino said.
    EDSA also asked residents what the word “community” means to them. Answers ranged from “small-town/village feel, not Fort Lauderdale” to “neighbors looking out for each other” and “living in harmony with the environment.”
    Gray said his firm will go through all the answer sheets the residents filled out and create a “word cloud” to determine what park attributes are most important to Boca Raton. It will also rank the photos that got the most stickers.
    City officials are separately developing plans for Rutherford and Lake Wyman and Hillsboro El Rio parks and the Wildflower parcel, though they told EDSA that they would welcome suggestions.
    Engineering consultant Miller Legg already had come up with three versions of a master plan for Red Reef Park. The Beach & Park District hired Miller Legg in 2014 to evaluate Red Reef, then shelved the proposals last summer before reviewing them after city officials decided they wanted to oversee projects at the park.
    The city owns Red Reef; the district pays for its operations, maintenance and capital projects. The city posted a PowerPoint file and video of the EDSA presentation on its website, www.myboca.us. Click on Government, then Municipal Services, then Coastal Management and Waterfront Master Plan. Residents can also email ideas for the parks via a link on the Master Plan page.
    The meeting was similar to a better-attended “interactive visioning session” in September organized by City Council member Scott Singer and focused primarily on the Wildflower site.
    The roughly 130 residents Singer drew met in the same room as the EDSA session and also split into groups of eight per table. The features those residents wanted most were a wide walkway along the Intracoastal Waterway, a water taxi, and space for paddleboards and kayaks.
    Talk of putting restaurants at Ocean Strand and the Wildflower site led to separate city ordinances banning private uses of public land along the Intracoastal.

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