The Coastal Star

Boca Raton: More rotted wood delays completion of Gumbo Limbo boardwalk

By Steve Plunkett

The discovery of rotten wood supports for the boardwalk at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center will add 46 days to the work schedule.

The boardwalk and the center’s rebuilt observation tower are now expected to be finished June 2 instead of April 17. Removing and replacing 400 feet of deteriorated stringers and installing stainless steel mounting hardware will add $8,400 to the $1.1 million project.

The bulk of the additional construction time comes from the days in between when the wood rot was discovered, in mid-December, and when the architect could revise the plans and price out the repair.

“The reason they could not go forward with that was because this is the base of the boardwalk,” Melissa Dawson, facilities manager for the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, told district commissioners Jan. 22.

That same day, the nature center announced that most of the boardwalk is closed “until further notice.”

“Users will not be able to walk from the Nature Center to Red Reef West; please use the sidewalk along A1A,” the announcement said. Updates when available will be posted at

February marks the fourth anniversary of the closure of the popular observation tower and boardwalk. Engineers in 2015 warned that the structures were near collapse and they were immediately put off-limits.

The first phase of the boardwalk was finished in December 2016 and cost roughly $631,000. Work to rebuild the 40-foot tower and the south loop of the boardwalk began in September. Fort Pierce-based Custom Marine Construction Inc. has the $1.1 million contract.

Boca Raton owns Red Reef Park, which includes the nature center; the Beach and Park District reimbursed the city for the price of the land and pays for all operations and capital improvements there.

In other business:

• District commissioners decided to pay former Assistant Director Briann Harms $105,000 a year to serve as interim full-time executive director while they hunt for a permanent hire.

• Susan Vogelgesang was chosen to chair the commission in 2019, replacing Robert Rollins. Erin Wright became vice chairman; Craig Ehrnst kept his title as secretary-treasurer. 

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