By Steve Plunkett
The consultant designing a park at Ocean Strand will earn an extra $16,000 to review when other beachfront parks are open, what demands they meet and how many people use them, then compare those numbers to national standards.
The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District approved the additional expense at its Nov. 21 meeting. Curtis + Rogers Design Studio Inc.’s contract already guaranteed the consultant a little more than $80,000 to develop a master plan for Ocean Strand, including an inventory of what nearby parks offer but not the specific days and hours.
“There may be things we don’t want to do,” District Chairman Dennis Frisch said. “We’re trying not to duplicate services.”
Curtis + Rogers will compare the numbers it gathers to National Recreation and Parks Association standards for acres of parkland per unit of population and specific recreational activities and/or facilities per unit of population.
The menu of park amenities in Boca Raton keeps changing. Since Curtis + Rogers started work in March, the city has received letters of interest on developing its Wildflower property next to Silver Palm Park and the county has developed a plan to restore mangroves and canoe trails at Lake Wyman.
The county won competitive grants from the Florida Inland Navigation District, which wants sea grass beds included in the project to mitigate against sea grass it might damage while dredging the Intracoastal Waterway.
“The county’s still waiting to obtain all its permits,” County Commissioner Steven Abrams said in late November.
Boca Raton asked Abrams to find another way to fund the project besides asking the city or the Beach and Park District to come up with $419,000 as a local share, but Abrams said no other money is available.
“In years past, the commission had discretionary funds and there were other fund sources that don’t exist anymore,” he said.
Meanwhile, the city has drafted an amendment to its comprehensive plan to label the 15-acre Ocean Strand site between Spanish River and Red Reef parks recreational instead of residential.
Beach and Park District attorney Art Koski said the city will apply for the land-use change by itself rather than include the district as a partner.
The city and the beach district are also waiting for the 4th District Court of Appeal to set a date for oral arguments in a citizens’ lawsuit seeking a special election banning private clubs on public land on the barrier island. The appellate court should render a decision a month or two after the hearing, Koski said.
Ocean Strand was discussed at Beach and Park District and city meetings after a 2009 Florida-Penn Cos. proposal for a members-only cabana club there to augment a luxury hotel planned for downtown. Neighbors were shocked to learn Boca Raton’s comprehensive plan labels the parcel residential.
The beach and park district bought the Ocean Strand property in 1994 for $11.9 million, but never developed it. Ú