12686765078?profile=RESIZE_710xFamily and friends toast the memory of Jacob Kosowsky during a private celebration of Jacob’s Outlook — the new observation tower within Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Steve Plunkett

In a combination outdoor lawn party/celebration of life, the family of Jacob Kosowsky dedicated the opening of Gumbo Limbo Nature Center’s rebuilt observation tower after its dispiriting nine-year absence.

The tower is now called “Jacob’s Outlook” after parents Sharilyn Jones and Stephen Kosowsky donated $250,000 to rebuild it.

“Now a permanent fixture in Boca Raton, it stands as a testament to Jacob’s enduring legacy,” Stephen Kosowsky said at the invitation-only gathering of more than 100 family and friends on June 9.

“Its heights reach towards the sky, reminding us of his aspirations, dreams and limitless potential he carried within him,” Jacob’s father continued, his voice breaking. “Its foundation is solid, much like the values Jacob embodied — integrity, resilience and a deep sense of respect for the environment.”

12686767476?profile=RESIZE_710xLooking to the west, the tower gives a panoramic view from 40 feet up of Gumbo Limbo’s mangrove hammock and the Intracoastal Waterway.

The tower gives a bird’s-eye view from 40 feet up of Gumbo Limbo’s mangrove hammock, the Intracoastal Waterway and even glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean. An ADA-compliant, six-level switchback ramp offers a 700-foot stroll to the top. Also an option: five flights of stairs with 71 steps.

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A plaque at the top will dedicate the outlook forever:

A vista to inspire the soul from the depths of the ocean to the skies above
In loving memory of Jacob Kosowsky
May you be moved by its beauty and hold it in your hearts

Jacob, then 21 and a junior at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, died in a car accident in 2018. The Boca Raton native and Boca High graduate had grown up spearfishing, boating, snow skiing, playing soccer and climbing the tower, which originally was built before he was born.

12686768879?profile=RESIZE_710xSharilyn Jones and Stephen Kosowsky stand between two photo enlargements of their son, Jacob, before the tower was dedicated with a plaque. Photo provided by City of Boca Raton

“He was an outdoors kid, and that love of nature and sublime adventure stayed with him throughout his life,” his mother told the crowd assembled on the nature center’s grounds. “It is our wish that this tower, Jacob’s Outlook, will be a reminder to each of us to allow that profound understanding to live with deep meaning and harmony.”

Jacob’s sister, Mia, who was a year behind him at Vanderbilt and has since graduated, told everyone that that Sunday was also her birthday.

“Shortly after we knew that this was going to be happening, and my parents were trying to figure out when we were going to be celebrating the opening, I couldn’t think of a better way to share this (day) and share something with my brother,” she said. “So cheers to you, Jake — woo!”

The city’s official ribbon-cutting that opened the tower to the public was June 13.

The path to rebuilding the tower was neither quick nor easy.

Engineers in 2015 declared it and the adjoining boardwalk unsafe, and they were removed. The boardwalk was rebuilt and reopened five years ago.

Around that time, six 40-foot wooden posts for the tower were embedded in concrete, but construction stopped when city officials decided the replacement would have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The nonprofit Coastal Stewards, then known as the Friends of Gumbo Limbo, proposed building an “inclined elevator.” Kosowsky and Jones pledged the $250,000 in return for naming the tower after Jacob, and Howard and Merele Kosowsky, his grandparents, gifted $100,000. Their extended family and family friends raised almost $208,000 more for the project.

12686769685?profile=RESIZE_710xAn ADA-compliant, six-level switchback ramp offers a 700-foot stroll to the top. Also an option: five flights of stairs with 71 steps.


City officials later scrapped the elevator plan in favor of the multi-level ramp, which they estimated would cost $1.4 million. They and Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District officials were shocked in early 2022 when they received only one bid — for $2.6 million.

The project was rebid and West Palm Beach-based Walker Design & Construction Co. won the $2.4 million job. The Beach and Park District covered $1.9 million.
Stephen Kosowsky thanked everyone for the generous support.

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Stephen Kosowsky admires one of the photos of his son that were on display.

“Our dearest Jacob, you are forever in our hearts. Your spirit soars with every breeze that touches this tower, and your love continues to guide us,” he said. “Though you’re no longer with us in body, your presence is felt in every corner of our lives, and your legacy will forever stand tall, like the tower we dedicate in your honor today.”

Before leading the guests to the viewing platform, Jones told them the event’s signature cocktail — a mix of light, dark and coconut rum with triple sec and pineapple juice — was “a fave of Jake’s.”

“And whatever you have in your hand at this moment, let us all toast to Jake and the big love he has brought here today,” she said.

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