By Steve Plunkett

    The city will have a “public outreach meeting” April 3 to discuss its waterfront parks and gather ideas from Boca Raton residents.
    The session, hosted by Fort Lauderdale-based consultant EDSA Inc., is designed to give the public a chance to “ask questions, express opinions and make suggestions and comments” on current and future uses of the city’s waterfront properties, which include Spanish River, Red Reef and South Beach parks and the vacant Wildflower parcel.
    Jennifer Bistyga, the city’s coastal program manager, has said EDSA is considering passive park ideas, launch facilities for kayaks and paddleboards and at Red Reef Park, perhaps adding some pavilions. The consultant will use the public input to develop conceptual plans.
    The city and the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District also want input on what to do with the district-owned Ocean Strand property, almost 15 undeveloped acres between Spanish River and Red Reef parks.
    Separately, city officials are pursuing plans to build two double boat ramps and refurbish a canoe trail and boardwalk at Rutherford and Lake Wyman parks.
    Beach & Park District officials rescheduled their regular monthly meeting from April 3 to April 4 to accommodate the outreach session.
    “We’re anxious to see what’s up,” said Arthur Koski, district executive director.
    The meeting will come after a series of inconclusive discussions over the past eight years on what features Boca Raton residents would most like added to their parks.
    City Council member Scott Singer held an unofficial gathering at the Downtown Library in September just to talk about what to do at the Wildflower parcel. It attracted about 130 people and generated a list of ideas ranging from a waterfront boardwalk to a giant checkerboard to a lush hanging garden.
    In June, the city told the Beach & Park District to hold off on developing a master plan for Red Reef Park after a district consultant spent two years preparing three alternatives for commissioners to consider. The city owns the park; the district pays all its operation and maintenance expenses and for capital improvements.
    In October 2011 residents trekked to the municipal complex on North Congress Avenue to hear presentations from restaurateurs, other business people and an architect on what to put at the Wildflower site. The Hillstone Restaurant Group was negotiating a lease with city officials when voters approved a citizen-initiated referendum in November reserving the spot and other city-owned land on the Intracoastal Waterway for public uses only.
    And the Beach & Park District abruptly stopped planning at Ocean Strand in February 2012 after a consultant spent a year studying the parcel and nearby city parks and concluded there was no public outcry to develop another park at the beach. The district has owned the pristine site since 1994.
    “You can plop a ball field almost any place you want to. We shouldn’t squander [Ocean Strand] on just whatever recreation need might pop into our heads,” Robert Langford, then the district’s executive director, said at the time.

If you go
What: Waterfront master plan input session
Where: Downtown Library, 400 NW Second Ave., Boca Raton
When: 6 to 8 p.m. April 3

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