Garden Club eyes fallow land for planting dune-friendly foliage: Ocean Ridge

By Antigone Barton

OCEAN RIDGE — The scruffy oceanfront patch of land near the town’s southern border stands as proof that one governing entity’s trash can be another’s treasure.
Left fallow by current owner Palm Beach County, the spot could serve as the model of a well-tended dune, according to town officials who in their October meeting voted to ask the county for the land.
The request came after the Ocean Ridge Garden Club indicated an interest in planting the land with dune-friendly foliage that would make it a model for residents seeking to beautify and preserve their strips of coastal property, Town Manager Ken Schenk said.
The county regularly gives land parcels that it owns but that lie within town borders to those towns, according to Ross Hering, who heads the county’s Property and Real Estate Management division.
“You have to look at each piece,” Hering said. “Does it make sense for the municipality to manage it, or does it serve a broader function for the county?”
The county got the land opposite 5004 Old Ocean Blvd. in 2002, when a property owner facing a code enforcement action over a too-tall Australian pine deeded the parcel to the county to use as part of its Shoreline Protection Plan.
Usually land falls into county hands from tax-debt foreclosures and usually from areas further west, Hering said.
“More depressed areas yield more properties,” he said.
While dunes facing the sunrise at the foot of town cannot be called “depressed, ” the parcel under consideration “is a mess,” Commissioner Betty Bingham said.
Bingham, who also is a Garden Club member, said that after the club plants the dune, it would require maintenance only to remove invasive plants dropped off by migrating birds.
“Basically, the dune should run itself,” she said.
The county’s response could take a month or more, Bingham projected.
“If they’re going to use it for purposes that are consistent with restoration of the dune, that’s a county-wide interest,” Hering said. “We support those interests.”
He could not yet comment on the specific request, he said.
At the same time the town requested two strips of land on either side of the entrance to the Ridge Harbour Estates neighborhood. That land fell into county hands as a result of a tax foreclosure against a developer.
Not currently maintained by the county, the spot would be “a perfect spot to do landscaping,” Commissioner Terry Brown said.

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