Kayak beach, trail to Intracoastal set for new Ocean Strand park

A kayak beach and mulch trail from A1A to the Intracoastal Waterway are in the works for the west side of Ocean Strand.

Recently hired Maracore Builders unveiled plans for the first phase, 11 acres of a new pedestrian park expected to open by year’s end. The 3 acres on the east side of the property front the ocean south of Spanish River Boulevard.

The Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District bought the site in 1994 and upped the original budget to $100,000 this June, just to cover the cost of phase 1.

Maracore plans will create a walking trail, clear invasive vegetation and install benches and picnic tables, president Nate Custodio showed in a rendering at a special meeting.  A sign on A1A will identify the park and a 4-foot-wide gate will be installed for security.

“The only purpose of the meeting is an opportunity for the public to ask questions,” said Susan Vogelgesang, who chairs district.  But most of the questions were from district commissioners about these and future plans.

“We envision cleaning up 2 to 2.6 acres of Brazilian peppers,” said Carol Perez, with AGTLand Landscape Architecture, a consultant partnering with Maracore.

“You’re cutting through the open area, you’re chopping it up,” said commissioner Craig Ehrnst. “Be mindful to observe open space for later use. Think about where a pavilion or restroom will go in phase III.”

“You’re putting in picnic tables, but your diagram doesn’t have any locations. I’m hoping they’ll be in shaded areas,” said commissioner Steve Engel.

“You can have picnic tables by the Intercoastal, but introduce a bench midway on the walkway in shaded areas for sure,” Perez said.

“For the kayak launch, so people will just be paddling across, not taking their kayak out from there,” asked commissioner Erin Wright, who’s credited with pushing for  opening Ocean Strand to the public.

It’s more a destination point, not a launch, Perez said, adding there’s a natural beach there.

“Is there any way to incorporate volunteers into this process?” Wright asked.

“When we put a schedule together, we could allocate 14 days for doing the mulch trail,” Custodio said. “Some of the clearing when we’re not using machine or power tools. We’ll itemize certain tasks for volunteers.”

Left for later phases was art in public places, suggested by Deputy Mayor Andrea Levine O’Rourke after a walk-through. Commissioner Bob Rollins asked about stable footing for seniors using walkers or people in wheelchairs on the mulch trail.

Accessibility will come in later phases, the build team said, and was asked to explore compliance with Americans With Disabilities laws.

What’s the permitting timeline? Vogelgesang asked. “We’re not putting in a dock or coastal mitigation. Everything on the intracoastal side is untouched. It should be relatively quick review to approval,” Custodio said, estimating two or three weeks.

Public requests included a neighbor who wants to regulate animal access to prevent letting them run wild and attack other animals. Monitoring dogs will be up to park rangers to address, said the district’s executive director Briann Harms.

Approving the plan puts to rest rumors that Ocean Strand would be sold to bankroll the new public golf course.

By Marci Shatzman

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