By Mary Hladky
Boca Raton residents are passionate about parks and recreation and now are getting a chance to speak out on how the city can improve what it offers them.
To start assessing how best to meet the parks and recreation desires of residents, the city’s Recreation Services Department and the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District are splitting the nearly $100,000 cost of hiring PROS Consulting to survey residents on what they want before developing a plan and cost figures.
That effort kicked off on June 13 when city and Beach and Park District residents were invited to offer their thoughts.
“I’m excited for our community to work together to brainstorm new and innovative ideas which can be implemented in the next decade,” Recreation Services Director Michael Kalvort said.
Attendees’ comments will help PROS Consulting develop a survey that will be sent to all city and Beach and Park District residents in late July.
The Beach and Park District encompasses the city and extends beyond the western city limits to Florida’s Turnpike.
Residents also will be able to fill out the survey on a BocaReCreates website that will be launched at the same time, or to use the site to make comments and suggestions.
Neelay Bhatt, PROS vice president, started meeting with stakeholders, user groups and City Council members and Beach and Park District commissioners in June.
He expects to have a plan in 10-12 months and will present it to residents before it is finalized and goes to the City Council for approval and funding.
“The key to any plan is not to have a one-size-fits-all approach,” Bhatt told the nearly 60 residents who attended the June 13 session.
The plan will take into account the city’s changing demographics, including a projected 23 percent Hispanic population by 2033.
Asked what facilities the city should provide more of, residents ranked as their top picks a special event space and outdoor venue, pool and indoor aquatics facility and a recreation/community center.
Nature and outdoor adventure, adult fitness and enrichment and arts programs topped the list of new programs residents want.
New amenities they want include kayak launches, more trails and bike lanes and Wi-Fi in the parks.
When asked their top priorities, the choices were an aquatics facility, a fully equipped recreation center that included features such as climbing walls, more pickleball courts and bike trails and upgrades to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.
One resident lamented that she had expected more people to attend the meeting, given the importance of parks and recreation to many residents.
Kalvort said the meeting had been promoted on the city’s website and on social media, and notices were available at all city facilities and summer camps. He said he was happy with the turnout, and Bhatt agreed it was a strong showing for an issue that is not controversial.