Beach Area Master Plan Commentary

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By Christina Morrison Special to The Pineapple Did you know that Delray Beach lists 41 parks on its’ Parks & Recreation web page? Do you know which of those parks had over 1.8 Million visits last year and is on track to have 2 Million visits this year? These are more than all of the visitors to all of the other parks combined? If you guessed our beautiful public beach, you’d be right. Visitors come from all over our City – and the world – to our beach, so to say it is “World-Class” would be an understatement. Our beach has numerous entry/exit areas, convenient parking areas, lifeguard stands, and showers. Public bathrooms, shops and restaurants are just across the street at Atlantic and Ocean. Our beach is quiet and peaceful and offers a tranquil respite to all who use it. And all of this is free to use since the public beach was actually donated to the City from one of our founding families. Today, much of the beach area components are aged, in disrepair and need replacement. A Beach Area Master Plan was adopted by the City Commission in 2009. This Master Plan was developed using the great minds and thinking of citywide residents through two “Charrettes” and the Plan was brought to life by City Resident and gifted Architect Bob Currie. Since then, all following Mayors and Commissioners applauded and reinforced the concept of the Plan but took no action until Commissioner and Mayor Tom Carney stepped up to find funds to complete the new Pavilion and also designed a funding method to complete the most recent beach renourishment. Initially, the Beach Property Owners’ Association raised over $60,000 toward the new Pavilion construction with the city contributing the remaining portion of the funds. The new Pavilion was finally constructed in 2013-2014 but the other components of the Master Plan – new and wider walkways, fresh trees and gardens, new showers, benches, bike racks, trash receptacles and gazebos – remain unaddressed. Now, the BPOA has stepped up again and secured funding for two new gazebos (to replace the two that are actually falling apart) and has applied for a grant to construct new pergola elements at each end of the public beach – again, all private funds going to improve the public beach area. At a recent City Commission meeting, this issue was discussed and Mayor Glickstein, the entire Commission and City Manager Stewart publicly stated that the Beach Area Master Plan must be funded and the Mayor provided CM Stewart with a direct charge to do so. So now it is time to bring the entire Beach Area Master Plan to life. A funding mechanism is available where the parking fees generated from the beach area, which total approximately $1.6 Million per year, PLUS the revenue generated annually from the beach cabana contract, another approximately $200,000 per year, be used to fund the beach area improvements over the next 2 years. After that, a portion of these funds can be used to maintain the beach area. The rationale is that these monies are raised from the beach area and should be used on the beach area to bring it up to 21st Century standards, and then keep it fresh, nice, clean and safe for our Residents and visitors alike. Since all of the improvements noted in the Beach Area Master Plan total approximately $3 Million and should, after completion, have a life span of at least 10 years, these funds would prove to be a worthwhile investment in our City’s most used and valuable Park. Please urge the Mayor and City Commission to move forward “full speed ahead” on completion of all of the components of the Beach Area Master Plan so that our beach area stays a “World Class” asset for all of our Residents, tourists and visitors alike.