The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Bench plaques may be scrapped in beach updates

Jay and Alice Finst relax on the bench they donated at the north end of Delray Beach. It bears a plaque (below) that Alice says reflects the beach ambiance and reminds the couple of watching their sons surf there.  Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

Future of markers in doubt as Delray Beach begins master plan for shore

By Jane Smith

    They bought benches and brass plaques beside the city’s public beach as timeless remembrances of family members who so enjoyed their time by the sea. Many of the 50 or so markers are dedicated to departed loved ones.
    But that might end in April.
    That’s when Delray Beach will begin work on its $3 million beach master plan, a project in the works for over eight years. The 1.25-mile promenade west of the dunes will have wider sidewalks and similarly designed shower poles, benches, trash/recycling containers and signs to replace the current hodgepodge of styles.
    The city plans to honor the marker memorials, said John Morgan, head of the Environmental Services Department. The names will be carved into brick pavers forming the flagpole base near Atlantic Avenue and the benches returned to those who paid for them.

    Some longtime residents think the plaques should be left in place, or incorporated into the new beachscape.
    “The beach is saturated with sun lovers and requires no additional enticements,” longtime Delray resident Alice Finst said at the Feb. 7 commission meeting. She said she paid $774 for the plastic-composite bench with a plaque. She also bought a silver buttonwood tree that would be planted near the bench. They were installed in 2009.
    The Finst family marker depicts palms and a surfer. “They provide an ambiance of the most fun small city,” she told commissioners.
    She chose the north end of the beach because that’s where she watched her boys surf. “I usually stood,” she later recalled, “on the bench or sea wall to see them.”
    When she paid for the bench, Finst said, “I was told it would be a permanent location and the bench would not be removed.”
    Albert Richwagen, who runs his family bicycle shop in the city, suggested recycling the plaques for use on the new benches.
    “When my father passed, I also bought a bench in the south end for people to use to take their shoes off before going down to the beach,” he told commissioners.
    While the Finst family bench is in good condition at the lesser-used north end, Richwagen’s bench sits at the more heavily used south end. The rusted L-shaped brackets connecting the base of his bench to the concrete slab are broken. Richwagen said he replaced the stainless-steel straps several times since he bought the bench a few years ago.
    Bob Victorin, president of the Beach Property Owners Association, which spearheaded the beach plan, bought a bench with a plaque across from his Ocean Place condominium some two years ago. He paid $900 and the plaque reads: The Victorins since 1972.
    “It’s an emotional thing,” he said. “It serves no purpose for the city to disturb that. The old plaques can go on the new benches.”
    Both men admit they signed agreements allowing the city to move the benches at any time.
    “We will retrieve all the benches and hold them until we can notify the family,” Morgan said. “We will deliver the bench if the family wants it.”
    As to whether the new metal benches can have plaques, that’s a commission decision, he said.
    At the Feb. 7 meeting, Commissioner Mitch Katz said he liked the idea of putting the old plaques on the new benches.
    But Mayor Cary Glickstein wants to see uniformity at the beach.
    “Some of (the markers) are on benches and some in the ground like headstones, but none are uniform,” Glickstein wrote in an email. “This is a public beach — not a cemetery — that we have gone to great lengths to improve.”
    He said millions have been spent to improve the beach-side through renourishment programs and the dune management system that is widely regarded as one of the most successful in Florida.
    The last piece, Glickstein said, is the pedestrian promenade.
    MBR Construction of Fort Lauderdale was chosen in January with the low bid of $2.3 million. The city also paid EDSA Inc. of Fort Lauderdale $425,000 to design and secure permits and oversee construction.
    A ground-breaking ceremony will be held in late March, Morgan said.

    In other barrier island news, work will start in April on the Gleason Street and Venetian Drive crosswalks on Atlantic Avenue.
    Because they travel across a state road, the crosswalks are controlled by the state Department of Transportation. The department does not allow pavers to be used in its roadways. Stamped concrete is preferred. The $366,000 cost will be paid by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

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