By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer
The old adage “two are better than one” may not hold true when it comes to city parks.
Boca City Council recently approved a Conceptual Design that would marry two individual design concepts for Wildflower and Silver Palm Parks into one park – with a name yet to be chosen.
If discussion at a recent Boca Raton City Council Workshop is any indication, the public may even get a chance to ring in on the name for the new park.
At the workshop meeting, EDSA Principal Landscape Architect Kona Gray first gave a much-awaited presentation on the two parks, before finally recommending one overall conceptual design.
Gray’s suggestion of “one combined park” came with a tentative name that he and Mayor Scott Singer arrived at independently, “Centennial Park” — as the city is approaching its 100th Birthday in 2024.
Singer said this was his first time seeing the combined concept, which he called “Wonderful.” He also had Council members hammer out on the dais their views on a number of items including: Bathroom Location; South Parking; Water Taxi, Kayak and Fishing; Naming; Signage; Hours
Of Operation; Southside Seating along the Promenade; and Wetlands; – in order to give direction to EDSA.
Council Member Andrea Levine O’Rourke said what’s important about the park is its access to the visual waterfront and connectivity.
She said she found the name “Centennial Park” too pedestrian, adding that if you Google search it, there are thousands of Centennial Parks from Pompano Beach to Texas. “Everyone has a Centennial Park,” she added.
Levine O’Rourke offered other name alternatives such as “‘Harley Gates’ after one of our original homeowners” or ‘Gateway,’ due to its location on the waterfront.
Harley and Harriet Gates arrived in Boca Raton in 1913, purchasing 5 acres of land along the canal (today’s Intracoastal), and giving it the name Palmetto Park Plantation – the future name of the principal east-west road, according to www.bocahistory.org.
There was also talk of moving the bathroom in the park with the boat launch, Silver Palm Park, because it currently blocks the water view.
And of whether to move a half dozen designated parking spaces under the bridge to another location.
“To me, this is not pedestrian friendly, with kids, pedestrians, and cars driving and parking under the bridge,” said Levine O’Rourke, who thanked Kona Gray and Stephanie Main from EDSA and City of Boca Raton Coastal Project Administrator Jennifer Bistyga for “taking the time to walk those steps” along the waterfront promenade area between the two parks.
Council Member Monica Mayotte said she, Loved the concept of the floating wetlands. I think it’s fantastic on the north side of the bridge. Don’t put the wetlands near the boats [on the south side of the bridge]. I don’t want kids [and wildlife] near propellers!
Mayotte added that she’d like to see Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) launches at the park.
Neither Mayotte nor Levine O’Rourke wished to see a traditional playground there. They liked the idea of integrating Public Art to provide play without the standard slides and swings.
Residents had a chance to chime in during public comment. About 10 took the time to share their comments on the plans.
“This has been a huge learning experience for me and other members of my 2020 Vision team. [This park is going to] serve Boca for decades to come,” Boca Raton resident Eric Sevell said, adding he would like to see the bathroom moved.
Margaret Fitzsimons asked council members to consider if the park will be accessible and equitable for the entire community and will it stand the test of time.
The next step is for the project to go toward the Detailed Design phase, Bistyga said.