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Beachside safety push gains momentum

Renderings courtesy Mummaw + Associates

An organized push to beautify and make the gateway to Boca’s beaches much safer for pedestrians and bike riders is gaining momentum.

Established groups who live and own property on the barrier island and along that stretch of east Palmetto Park Road banded together to get this going. Their first pitch was presenting a wish list with pictures to city council as the downtown governing board.

Efforts fell by the wayside before, since city roads end west of the Intracoastal bridge. The state and county own A1A and Palmetto Park east leading up to the beaches.

Under the banner of Boca Beach Side, “we want them to champion us to cooperate with the county and state to bring these safety improvements to the island,” said Katie Barr MacDougall, president of Riviera Civic Association that covers Por La Mar, Riviera and Sun and Surf neighborhoods. “We need to make sure Palm Beach County is on board and we met with Commissioner Bob Weinroth and the Beach and Parks people.”

“Safety on the barrier island is everyone’s No. 1 issue,” added Emily Gentile, president of the Beach Condo Association of Boca Raton and Highland Beach, representing  more than 60 beachside condos and 12,000 residents. She also spoke at the virtual city meeting.

Their wish list includes constructing crosswalks at Wavecrest Way and Olive Way. Reducing parking along Palmetto Park Road. Eliminating parking at the heavily trafficked corners of A1A. “We need way-finding signs. If you want to go to Gumbo Limbo or Red Reef, you don’t know which way to turn unless you live here,” MacDougall said. The city has installed way-finding signs in the downtown, she noted.

The groups want sidewalks widened, same as the city has done elsewhere, especially downtown. “The sidewalks are narrow, and FPL put in concrete poles, so families going to the beach have to walk in the street. We’d love to see the powerlines buried and the poles removed,” MacDougall said.

“If they want to do a coastal theme, we went to Doug Mummaw first,” she said about the well-known Boca architect who also works with Investments Limited, the commercial property owner. “Every single commercial property owner gave us the thumbs up,” but nothing in writing yet, she added.

“If we can stop someone from getting run over, that would be a win. Crosswalks are our No. 1 thing. And then aesthetics. The city is missing the opportunity. This is a gateway to all the seaside amenities.”

Gentile agrees. “The ideas that were presented at the meeting just made good common sense. The expectations at this time is to get the issues on the table and get us all talking,” she said. “The beaches are our crown jewels. We need to invest in what makes Boca Raton special.”

By Marci Shatzman

 

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