The Coastal Star

Boca Raton: Park District gets bad news on planned athletic fields

By Cheryl Blackerby

    Boca Raton Beach and Park District commissioners were blindsided by news that their plans for building Phase 2 of the district’s biggest and newest project, Spanish River Athletic Facilities at DeHoernle Park, may not get the green light from the city.
    Art Koski, the commission’s acting director, said City Manager Leif Ahnell told him that the Phase 2 land might not be available because it has been used as a disposal area for hurricane cleanup.
    “It’s the first time I’ve heard anything about a hurricane disposal area and we’ve been talking about Phase 2 for a number of years,” said Koski. “The implication I got from this conversation was there was some reluctance on the part of the city to go forward with Phase 2.”
    And there was more bad news about Phase 2 development from the city, Koski told commissioners at the July 21 district meeting.
    Koski said he told city officials that the district agreed to share more of the burden of beach renourishment, from 30 percent to 50 percent of future beach restoration;  and the district would immediately reimburse the city $2 million for a prior beach renourishment project. And, the commission was also eager to move ahead with Phase 2 of Spanish River.
    Koski said he was stunned to get a verbal reply from the city that denied their biggest wish — completion of Phase 2.
    The city wanted the inter-local agreement for beach renourishment that increases the level of funding and they wanted the $2 million for the beach renourishment, said Koski. Then, they said, they would “talk about the other items.” Which meant Phase 2 was up in the air.
    “Right now we’re being told that we will only have that discussion upon the district agreeing to the other two items,” said Koski.  “I hope the city’s commentary does not mean that they have put this aside. I don’t know whether it’s gamesmanship or bargaining or what they want.”
    Koski said the proof of the district’s determination to move forward on all issues is in the budget.
    “We have in our budget $2 million to reimburse the city and $6.6 million to build Phase 2 of DeHoernle Park. If that’s not an expression of what we want to do, I don’t know what is,” Koski said.
    The athletic fields planned for DeHoernle Park are badly needed, said Koski.
    “With the number of youths participating in our organization, these fields and the demands made upon these fields are a community priority,” said Koski. “We have designers ready to begin the final design process for this facility.”
    An offer of space for athletic fields has been made by Florida Atlantic University, said Koski. “We have been in informal talks with FAU to consider opportunities that may exist on their campus for construction of athletic facilities. FAU has extended to us at least a willingness to use their campus if Phase 2 is not available.”
    Commissioner Robert Rollins noted that the district has built five fields with FAU “with no complications, no problems. We’ve had a partner who’s been good to us. But Phase 2 is the ideal location, and I would certainly like to do that.”
    Commissioners agreed that new fields should be built soon.
    “Spanish River is in constant use,” said Rollins.  “We need more facilities. We can’t wait a whole lot longer for this to come together.”
    “The ideal solution for us as far as getting more recreational space is to build Phase 2, but seeing the obstacles that currently are there toward getting that off the ground, maybe we should pursue more serious talks with FAU,” said Commissioner Steve Engel. ;

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