Big crowd bounces around ideas for beach area

See more photos from the event By Kelly Wolfe They’d streamed in throughout the morning: deeply tan folks with knitted brows sporting flip flops, shorts, Hawaiian-print shirts and dozens of palm tree insignias — serious beach dwellers. The sign on the door said the room accommodated no more than 70, but that number had been exceeded long ago. They stood shoulder to shoulder in the pastel room, poised to make a point. “We’re hoping to get input from citizens,” said Mary Renaud, president of the Beach Property Homeowners Association. “This is about having a plan in place so that everyone knows what we want.” The charette, held at the Delray Beach Marriott Nov. 7, was a massive brainstorming session where residents could get together to daydream about what they want for the beach. There aren’t immediate plans to change anything on the beach at this time. People were obviously interested in putting forth their ideas, since 30 minutes into the meeting organizers were turning people away. Perry King Neubauer, an architect from Cambridge, Mass., listed suggestions on a big, white pad in the front of the room. “I’m leading this mother,” Neubauer said, by way of introducing himself. “It’s important to have a master plan.” Concerns varied, from smoking on the beach, to parking, to lighting, to vegetation, to showers. One man said he didn’t like that joggers ran him over on the sidewalk during his morning walk. “There’s this woman who runs right up behind me and yells ‘Move!’” he said. A woman said she was concerned about people on the beach after dark. “There’s a lot of activity by the sailboats,” she told Neubauer. “Under the cover of darkness?” he asked. “Yes,” she said. “Some of it sexual.” One man requested that all the vegetation be removed from the dunes so he could see the water from across the street. “Boo!” said the group. “Why don’t you cross the street, idiot?” They agreed on one item in particular. “What about exercise stations?” asked Neubauer. “No!” they shouted in unison. In essence, it was a lively crowd. Afterward, they broke up into about a half-dozen groups. Afterward, each group presented coffee-stained plans that included such ideas as: a social area with disabled access and showers, a smoke-free beach, roving patrols of volunteers, and a better marking of the visitors center because “no one knows the visitors’ center is there — especially the visitors.” Cathy Balestriere, who manages Crane’s BeachHouse, said she was glad she invested the time. “It was a very hopeful meeting,” she said. “It’s just nice to see we had so many good ideas come out of it.” Kari Shipley, who lives two blocks from the beach on Vista Del Mar, said the meeting was very productive. Albert Richwagen, who owns Delray Beach Bike and Sport, said that Delray Beach has one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. “The beach is an ever-changing canvas that should be kept natural, natural, natural,” he said. Shipley said even though she didn’t agree with everything she heard — “I don’t care about all the [public] art. There’s a place for that.” — she said she liked the exchange of ideas.
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