Golden Harbor resident John Van Blois (left) shows members of the
Beach & Parks board, Robert Lanford, Earl Starkoff and Dr. Dennis
Frish, a drawing that shows where silting is making boat access into
their neighborhood more difficult. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star
By Steve Plunkett
In the end, city leaders couldn’t pass up getting a $3 million makeover of Lake Wyman and Rutherford parks for an initial outlay of only $225,000.
But the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District said not so fast and asked its staff to report on the proposed project at its June 18 meeting.
The City Council voted unanimously May 8 to partner with the Florida Inland Navigation District, the county and the Beach and Park District. The county first presented the plan last July.
Mayor Susan Whelchel emphasized that the outside money pushed Lake Wyman ahead of other unfunded projects.
“If somebody else has another $3 million, we’ll be happy to listen to you as well,” Whelchel said.
But she also said city approval hinged on the Beach and Park District matching its contributions.
“I think we’re saying the same thing they’re saying, you know: ‘You’re in, we’re in. You’re not in, we’re not in,’ “ Whelchel said. “We both have to be in or we both are out.”
The main thrust of the project is to scoop out a spoil island FIND owns just east of Lake Wyman Park and north of the Golden Harbour neighborhood and create a 3.3-acre basin for seagrass to offset possible seagrass damage during routine dredging of the Intracoastal.
A dock for day boaters would be built at the mouth of the basin, and about 1 mile of canoe trails in Rutherford Park would be restored to increase mangrove flushing and make the trails passable at low tide. Eleven acres of Australian pines and Brazilian pepper would be removed from the island and two smaller spoil islands FIND owns. The boardwalk would be lengthened and picnic and beach areas added along with an observation platform.
City Manager Leif Ahnell estimated the Beach and Park District and Boca Raton would split paying $450,000 for the startup, which includes $40,000 to resod ball fields at Lake Wyman Park after they are elevated with fill from the seagrass basin. FIND would also pay half of an estimated $25,000 to dredge two areas on the 14th Street canal, he said.
The city will budget $50,000 a year to cover regular maintenance plus build a reserve for dredging the canoe trail and replacing the boardwalk in 20 years.
Before the vote, Golden Harbour resident Steve Reiss made a final appeal that the council promise to set aside money to maintain the canoe trail.
“There’s fear that the studies needed to be independent to make sure that the water flow will be good because in nearby Lake Wyman there are some yucky areas,” Reiss said. “Hopefully those won’t spread to this submerging of an additional 4 acres of land.”
Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie tried to calm his concerns.
“I think it’s important we protect the adjacent neighborhood, but I’m confident that this project will improve the existing conditions that you’re experiencing,” Haynie said.
The navigation district has similar seagrass beds at Ocean Ridge, Lake Worth and Juno Beach.
Beach and Park District Chairman Earl Starkoff said he was sure the Lake Wyman schedule could absorb another four weeks. After the district’s May 21 meeting, Julie Mitchell, project manager for the county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management, said she was finishing up getting the permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers.
“We’ve got a little bit of wiggle room still, but we don’t have a lot of room,” Mitchell said.
Even with Beach and Park District approval, the county, city, beach district and FIND must work out interlocal agreements and the county needs to request and then review bids before work can begin.
The project must be finished by Sept. 30, 2013, to qualify for FIND’s $2.1 million grant. Rob Robbins, director of Environmental Resources Management, said the completion date might have to be written into the bids.
“Time is tight,” he said.
The plan was changed several times to accommodate residents. The boat slips at first were planned for the south end of the spoil island, closest to Golden Harbour, then moved to the east side. Later the seagrass lagoon and picnic areas were reconfigured to move an access road farther from the neighbors.
Reiss returned to the City Council on May 22 with other Golden Harbour residents to say he had seen a county document showing part of the access road with a buffer only 35 feet wide instead of 50 feet.
“That’s a nuisance issue, that’s a privacy issue and one that’s of utmost concern to the neighborhood,” he said.
The continued opposition perplexed Mitchell.
“It’s an environmental restoration project. It should be a no-brainer,” she said.