By Linda Haase
When the Oceanfront Park boardwalk was replaced with recycled plastic in 1986, city officials hailed it as the latest and greatest in the green movement.
But, as they say, you can’t fool Mother Nature. The harsh winds and corrosive saltwater warped the 900-foot walkway; the coarse sand made it slippery. “It was done with great intentions, but it didn’t hold up as well as the industry predicted,” said Boynton Beach Parks Superintendent Jody Rivers.
This summer, the heavily treaded boardwalk will be rebuilt with reddish-brown ipe wood, which is similar to teak. The wood, which is purchased from Brazilian growers, resists rot, decay, insects and mold and is fire-resistant. And, it doesn’t contain the toxins and chemicals inherent to pressure-treated lumber.
“It’s a very hard wood, it’s very durable and doesn’t warp like recycled plastic,” said Rivers. “It’s also a renewable resource.“
Boat Club Park and Intracoastal Park in Boynton Beach have areas constructed with the wood, Rivers said. However, she said, there’s no way to predict if this boardwalk will last longer than the previous one, which was part of a $1.2 million renovation.
“The climate conditions at the beach are very harsh,” Rivers said. “It is very difficult for any material to hold up for any length of time.”
It will take about a year to rebuild the boardwalk, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The work will be done in phases, she said, so beach access will always be available.
The $2.4 million renovation at the city’s most popular park also includes installation of 12 shade pavilions and landscaping. About $30,000 was also spent on new equipment for the playground, that was recently installed. Tables and chairs will be added in the plaza area and covered with a canopy.
“People can come here and sit and eat breakfast and lunch and enjoy the beach without getting into the sun,“ Rivers said.
Also on the horizon: The price of annual resident beach parking permits will increase from $30 to $40 on Oct. 1.
Last year, about 270,000 people visited Oceanfront Park, located in Ocean Ridge, which features two pavilions, a playground, barbecue grills, picnic tables, restrooms, an open play area, playground and sand volleyball.
Oceanfront Park, Then and Now
This piece of paradise has a stunning vista, but it also has a fascinating past. Native Americans enjoyed its cooling ocean breeze more than 2,000 years ago and Ponce de Leon sailed past it on his journey to the Bahamas.
1921: The park is purchased for $5,750 by eminent domain from the estate of Lewis S. Howe.
1928: A Spanish-style casino (for social gatherings, not gambling) is built for $11,974. The stucco building features a red-tile roof, a dining hall, lockers (10 cents per day), a concession area and showers. It was torn down in 1967.
1931: Boynton splits into two towns divided by the canal; the area east of the canal is named Town of Boynton Beach (renamed Ocean Ridge in 1937). The beach was retained by Boynton after the separation, although it is in the town limits of Ocean Ridge.
1946: Lucille and Otley Scott open a restaurant at the casino. It closes in 1948 when they relocate to Federal Highway.
1961: A playground is built. 1966: The facility is named the Walter A. Madsen Park, to honor Madsen, a former Boynton Beach mayor, vice mayor and city councilman.
1983: The dune area is restored, a boardwalk and playground are built. The parking lot, concession area and restrooms are rebuilt.
1986: A $1.2 million renovation includes rebuilding the sidewalk with recycled plastic.
1991 and 2002: Playground equipment is replaced.
2009: A $2.4 million renovation includes rebuilding the boardwalk with ipe wood, installing 12 shade pavilions and landscaping.