By Sallie James
A plan to develop the south end of Hillsboro El Rio Park — an area once used as a city dump — would cost about $3 million, according to Boca Raton City Manager Leif Ahnell.
The north end of the park at 499 SW 18th St. was developed years ago and includes soccer and baseball fields. The future of the park’s south end was discussed during a recent City Council workshop meeting.
The project could be pricey because special permits would be required to build anything near the mangrove swamp, and remediation would be required to develop anything on the area previously used for a landfill.
Suggestions ranged from a waterfront kayak launch that would allow paddlers to glide silently among leafy mangroves, to construction of a jogging and fitness trail, a playground, picnic pavilions and restroom facilities.
The property is west of South Dixie Highway and north of Southwest 18th Street.
The development proposals stem from a May workshop that was attended by about 45 city residents. About a third of those in attendance made the suggestions, noted Dan Grippo, municipal services director.
Council member Scott Singer wondered if enough residents had weighed in on the park development to justify moving ahead.
“I want to make sure we are getting a representative sample,” Singer said. “I don’t want to hold this as sacrosanct if it really is just 15 residents at one particular meeting.”
Cost estimates to develop the property range from about $3 million to more than $7 million, depending on the amenities and remediation required for the area that previously served as a landfill, said Ian Nestler of PGAL, a firm of architects, designers, engineers and planners.
“We’re talking about a pretty big investment,” said City Council member Jeremy Rodgers. “I think we need to get more input.”
The biggest expense would be remediating the dump at a cost of $300,000 per acre, Nestler said. The landfill is composed of about 14 acres.
Glenn Gromann, a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, said the city could run into big trouble if it disturbs the old landfill and discovers something that is costly to clean up.
“The problem with uncovering a site of this nature is that you get what you pay for,” Gromann said. “If a significant amount of contamination were uncovered, that would be … on the city’s dime. That we might have to seek federal assistance for potential cleanup is my only concern.”
Ahnell said city staff will take into consideration what was said at the workshop and come back with a proposal in a month. He estimated a cost of $500,000 each for development and a master plan, and $2 million to remediate the landfill property, for a total of $3 million.