7960662056?profile=originalA 5.4-acre parcel at the south end of Highland Beach is the future site of the county’s Milani Park.

The land won’t be developed as a park for at least four years, but trespassers are holding

parties there, building bonfires and perhaps disturbing turtle nests.

Photo Courtesy Highland Beach

By Rich Pollack

    Highland Beach town leaders are hoping Palm Beach County will help them in their efforts to end trespassing and illegal activity on a stretch of beachfront property the county has wanted to turn into a park since it purchased the site almost 30 years ago.
    The 5.4-acre parcel at the south end of the town — known as the future site of Milani Park — has been at the center of a long-standing dispute between the county and Highland Beach and its residents, who are opposed to opening the property to the public.
    In 2010, both sides reached an agreement that would delay any development of the park until at least 2020 and possibly for 10 more years after that.   
    Now, however, it seems that trespassers are building bonfires and drinking on the beach, disturbing turtle nests and painting graffiti on a seawall.
    And Highland Beach wants to put a stop to it.
    “Someone is going to get hurt,” said Commissioner Carl Feldman. “I want people to know it is off limits.”
    Town Manager Beverly Brown said the town’s police officers are patrolling the area, but for safety reasons are not traversing a narrow path through the wooded area from State Road A1A to the beach.
    “We don’t allow police officers to go down there alone,” Brown said. “We don’t have the staffing to patrol it on a daily basis.”  
    Brown said trespassers have cut down trees in the wooded area for bonfires and that alcohol and drug use is prevalent. She said a volunteer who works with sea turtle protection stepped on a needle and that stakes marking turtle nests were pulled up and used as firewood.
    “The neighbors are afraid to walk on the beach,” she said.
    Brown, in a letter to the county late last month, asked to have a fence put up to block trespassers.
    Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Director Eric Call said his department is working with Highland Beach to resolve the issue.
    “‘No Trespassing’ signs were posted on the property and maintenance personnel and park rangers are working with town police to monitor access,” Call said.
    County maintenance crews are also visiting the property regularly, he said.
    “As an undeveloped parcel, it is not routinely maintained,” Call said. “However, rangers patrol it daily and maintenance personnel inspect it several times a week for any graffiti or unauthorized use.”
    Call said that the county also inspects the property once a year to determine if exotic plants need to be removed.
    Highland Beach police will continue to respond to calls to the area and work to remove trespassers, Brown said.
    In May, a sign that posted hours and indicated the county park was open appeared on the seawall on the property but it was removed two days later. Call said the sign was the result of an apparent miscommunication between the town and parks department staff and said that additional ‘No trespassing’ signs have been added.
    Late last month, county crews installed a fence blocking entrance to the property from A1A.
    Palm Beach County purchased the property from Cam D. Milani in 1987 for about $4 million, intending to use the site as a beachfront park with a boardwalk and small restaurant.
    Under terms of a 2010 agreement, the county will need to alert the town in 2019 if it plans to develop the property as a park or opt to defer development for another five years.
    Call said he is not aware of any discussion among county leaders regarding the parcel’s future.

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Comments

  • I'd like details on why the residents of Highland Beach are opposed to developing the area as a public park?

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