By Steve Plunkett

Ocean Strand, 15 acres on State Road A1A that the public has owned for decades but not been able to enjoy, will open in six months as a limited-use park.
The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, which paid $11.9 million for the property in 1994, voted unanimously March 2 to install benches, a rock road and a portable restroom on the acreage west of A1A with an eye on opening the gates by September.
“I think it’s important to get it open now to the public so that the public is clear, 100%, that we are not selling this property, we are making it a park,” said Erin Wright, the commission’s vice chair, who proposed the $75,000 expense.
Commissioners also tasked their attorney, Sam Goren, with drafting a declaration stating that Ocean Strand will be held “in perpetuity” as open space not to be developed.
“I’m tired of listening to the innuendos and the rumors that are going on out there that the property might be for sale because it’s not. Never has been, never will be,” Commissioner Robert Rollins said.
Last September developer Robert Comparato offered the district $67.5 million for Ocean Strand with a plan to build a 171-room hotel, 110 condominiums, 30 villas and 35 boat slips there.
“We summarily turned him down.” Rollins said. “I don’t see anybody on this commission that has any appetite for doing anything but making it a park. Let’s put a stake in the ground and make it clear that we’re not interested in selling this property.”
Briann Harms, the district’s executive director, presented estimates from the city’s Recreation Services Department for work that would be needed to open the parcel, which now has a gate blocking access.
“This plan is just for the west side. It’s minimal parking, minimal everything,” she said.
The oceanfront east side will remain off-limits.
Included in the estimates was money for two picnic tables, two benches, two trash cans, signs, fencing and labor.
The most expensive item was $18,000 to clear the site of exotic plants.
Wright asked for “as simple a plan as possible” with perhaps just benches instead of picnic tables and possibly a kayak launch.
“I think this is great,” Commissioner Steve Engel said. “We have a purpose. We want to open up the property to the public, and this gives us a starting point.”
District officials will discuss safety issues and operational details with their city counterparts as the plan progresses. Commissioners said they might seek volunteers to help with mulching and cleaning up the property to keep costs down.
Commissioner Craig Ehrnst asked Wright, and she agreed, to amend her motion to include developing a long-range plan for a fully functioning park. Ehrnst said the district will seek input from the community on what features Ocean Strand should have.
“Don’t know what that’s going to cost, but that’ll put forth a plan for the future and it’ll be a multiyear plan. It’s not going to be implemented right away or anything,” Ehrnst said.
Goren said he would bring the perpetuity declaration back for commissioners to consider at their March 16 meeting. The document, he said, can be recorded at the county Clerk and Comptroller’s Office after it is approved.
“That’s a very strong signal” of commissioners’ intent, Goren said.

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  • The latest research has demonstrated many of the beneficial qualities of the Brazilian Pepper Tree.  A poultice derived from the bark of this species has shown definite promise in the battle against exima, saborea and psoriasis.   

  • After living at 960 Ocean Strand for 20 years, I have fond memories and a desire to return. Drove in last weekend, parked and could not find where my house was on the South side of the street. Finally fig it out, andit is so overgrown that it is hard to believe there was anything there at one time.

    They cleared the property previously of the non indeginious plants (mostly Brazilian Pepper trees), and good luck this time for getting it done for $18,000. It took them months previously, probably in the early 90's, and the air was toxic from the smell of the pepper trees.  No one with asthma would appreciate the toxic air.

    Great to see this property remain public, tho it will be difficult to keep people from crossing to the beah unless a barrier is put up.  I built the stairs that are there now down to the beach.

    Thanks Greater Boca Raton Beach Tax District.  Job well done...so far.  Watch out for the Indian Mound on the South side of the street 3/4 of the was to the waterway.

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