By Jane Smith

Delray Beach city commissioners passed a $20 million bond referendum for parks improvements at their Sept. 19 meeting after removing projects that required 83 Australian pines at Atlantic Dunes Park to be cut down.
The vote was unanimous after the proposed work on the ocean side of the park was removed from the proposed referendum. The bond issue will go before city voters March 14, along with a separate $100 million public safety bond referendum.
Three Delray Beach residents gave impassioned pleas to save the Australian pines at Atlantic Dunes Park at the meeting.
Mayor Shelly Petrolia then asked that the ocean side improvements be removed from the proposed parks referendum.
“I don’t want the trees to be the focus of the bond issue. It would be controversial,” she said. The rest of the park’s improvements are needed, she added.
Parking lot work on the west side of Atlantic Dunes Park, which is divided by State Road A1A, will be included in the bond. That includes upgrades to the storm drainage system.
Resident Sandy Zeller, who also sits on the city’s Planning & Zoning Board, said he was concerned that the bulk of the money for Atlantic Dunes would be used to remove the Australian pines on the ocean side.
“They are historic pines, been there 50 to 70 years,” he said during the public comment portion of the meeting. He suggested a formal study of the shade canopy the pines provide, comparing it to the Australian pine canopy over A1A that Gulf Stream was able to preserve in 1996. The town lobbied the state Legislature for two years to keep the trees from being cut down.
Resident Gayle Clark called the Australian pines in Atlantic Dunes Park “tall, stately and slender. You go into the park and immediately feel the cooling effect of the pines.”
Paul Ludwig, who has lived in Delray Beach since 1978, sent the commissioners a petition with almost 1,000 signatures of people who didn’t want to see the Australian pines replaced by an outdoor grilling area and a playground.
He also dismissed the suggestion that the pines are considered invasive. The ocean section of the park where the pines are located has condominiums to the north and south, the ocean to the east and A1A to the west. “There’s nowhere for them to invade,” he said.
The pines provide “40,000 square feet of shade, and they block the light for the nesting sea turtles,” he said. The pines offer homes to roosting herons and egrets.
The parks bond also has improvements to Catherine Strong Park, where the city plans to cover an artificial multi-purpose practice field, provide covered basketball courts, add a walking trail and improve the splash pad. The park is on Southwest Sixth Street, just east of Interstate 95.
At Miller Park, on Southwest Fourth Avenue south of Linton Boulevard, the city plans to add outdoor pickleball courts, said Sam Metott, the city’s parks and recreation director. But that’s only after fire rescue staff moves from trailers at the park into a rebuilt station on Linton Boulevard, he said.
Other improvements will be made throughout the city’s park system, including restroom renovations, improved lighting and facilities improvements, he said.
The bond language will return to the commission this month for final approval. The parks bond is estimated to cost $22 a year for 30 years for a home valued at $250,000.

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