By Steve Plunkett
Someone is wondering whether Boca Raton should buy South Inlet Park from the county.
County Commissioner Steven Abrams told Eric Call, the county’s parks and recreation director, that the city was asking about such a sale.
“Let’s assume the use would be required to remain the same (this commissioner certainly would not be in a position to explain to the neighboring residents that it would be used for any other purpose!)” Abrams emailed Call.
Call answered that the county has tried to avoid disposing of beachfront property over the years because the opportunity to replace it with a comparable property “is nearly impossible” due to a lack of undeveloped parcels.
But, Call said, the county once owned Phipps Ocean Park in Palm Beach so a sale of South Inlet Park would not be precedent-setting.
“I would recommend that if consideration is given to sell this park to the city that the proceeds from the sale be used to acquire additional property for future county park development,” Call said.
City Manager Leif Ahnell told Abrams he was asked to determine if the county would permit such a sale, Abrams said. Ahnell did not identify the person seeking the information, and Abrams did not ask who it was.
“I’d be more involved if the city took an official position,” Abrams said.
Assistant City Manager Mike Woika said the county commissioner misunderstood the city’s question.
"I don’t think anyone’s talked about a purchase,” Woika said. “It’s just an opening of discussion.”
City police already answer calls from South Inlet Park. In October 2010 Sheriff Ric Bradshaw pulled the 52 deputies in his parks enforcement staff in a $7 million budget-cutting move. He also asked cities to take over patrolling the parks.
Call said county residents would have to be guaranteed equal access to South Inlet Park if it were to become city-owned.
A little over 11 acres just south of the Boca Raton Inlet, South Inlet has a jetty, picnic areas, a playground and outdoor showers. Parking is $2 an hour on weekdays and $3 an hour on weekends.
At Boca Raton’s three beachfront parks — South Beach, Red Reef and Spanish River — parking is $15 weekdays and $18 weekends. Residents of the city and the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District can buy annual parking passes for $55.
The beach and park district also owns the idle Ocean Strand parcel on State Road A1A between Spanish River and Red Reef. It toyed with making Ocean Strand a park but dropped the idea in 2012 after a consultant said there was no present need for a fifth beachfront park in the city.