By Steve Plunkett

Buoyed by a $6 million drop in the cost estimate, Boca Raton City Council members enthusiastically approved a plan to refurbish long-neglected canoe trails and a boardwalk at Rutherford and Lake Wyman parks.
The plan carried a $15.5 million price tag when presented in June. But City Manager Leif Ahnell said he expected lumber prices to fall and they did. The boardwalk priced at $2,000 per linear foot earlier came in at $700 per foot in the second round of bidding.
That lowered the cost to $11.6 million; city staff recommended on Oct. 24 saving $2.1 million more by deleting proposed restrooms and a walking path on the north end of Rutherford.
“I’m glad to see the prices are coming way down,” council member Monica Mayotte said.
Municipal Services Director Zachary Bihr said his staff stepped off the distance between the proposed new restrooms and the park’s existing ones and found they were only 450 feet apart, close enough that a second facility was not necessary.
Council members agreed with that assessment but were not interested in saving dollars by leaving out two small sections of new boardwalk leading to trails in the center and south ends of the park, nor of using gravel instead of concrete for a kayak walkway.
“I think we’ve learned over time that connectivity is everything,” Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke said.
Ahnell said he would bring council members a contract to approve in November.
The $9.5 million is still about $4 million more than the city budgeted for the project. It will use a $2.7 million grant from the Florida Inland Navigation District for part of the work.
Besides restoration of the silted-in canoe trails, the parks will feature two kayak launch sites and a boardwalk connecting them to the parking lot. Plans call for use of native plants, removal of invasive vegetation, and trimming and planting of mangroves.
The parks abut each other on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway near Northeast 20th Street.
In 2012 the city rejected a plan put together by former mayor and then-County Commissioner Steven Abrams that would have restored Rutherford Park’s canoe trails, extended its boardwalk and created a sea grass basin on a large spoil island just east of Lake Wyman Park.
That project would have been funded by a $2.1 million grant from FIND and $450,000 from Palm Beach County, with the city and the Beach and Park District each chipping in $225,000.
The city was tempted by the outside money but ultimately did not want to cede control of the project to others.
In 2016, the city drew up a $6.5 million plan that included two double boat ramps in Rutherford Park and no money from FIND. That plan was dropped in favor of the current configuration.

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