Better boating access is the goal for about $8.8 million in scheduled improvements to four parks — and one new waterfront park — in north county.
“There is clearly a shortage of public places for boaters to launch their boats and store their trailers. We want to make north county more of a boating destination,” said Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Director Eric Call.
More public boat ramps, new staging areas, additional parking for boat trailers and repairs to existing ramps are among improvements scheduled to be finished by the end of 2016.
Waterway Park, the new park planned on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway next to Jonathan’s Landing, is expected to relieve docking traffic at Burt Reynolds and Bert Winters parks. Besides a three-lane public boat dock and parking for 60 boat trailers, plans for the 31-acre park call for a rain shelter, fishing pier and public restrooms.
Staging areas are floating 4-foot-wide docks next to the ramps that boaters use to load and unload their gear while they wait to use the ramps.
The new trailer parking should relieve the crowds, said Kevin Licata, a Palm Beach Gardens resident who was dropping his boat in at the ramp at Burt Reynolds on Thursday morning.
“Traffic really gets backed up, especially on weekends and holidays. Sometimes, I have to park on the other side of U.S. 1. With all the pedestrians, traffic and trailers, it gets dangerous,” Licata said.
Plans at Burt Reynolds call for demolishing the building now rented by the county for $1 a year to the Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce. The 840-member chamber is seeking a new building along the PGA corridor in Palm Beach Gardens, said Hannah Sosa, the chamber’s director of communications and special events.
At Fullerton Island, county and Jupiter officials plan to pull out nonnative plants and plant native mangroves and sea grass to create a park for boaters and and stand-up paddlers. Jupiter bought the 13-acre parcel off Burt Reynolds Park for $2.9 million in 2008.
Access to the island will be by boat only. A floating dock is planned for six small motorized boats. Only non-motorized canoes, kayaks and paddle boards will have access to the meandering 4-foot-deep aquatic path planned to wind through the island, said Carolyn Beisner, senior environmental analyst the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management.
“Ospreys and hawks nest there. The new plants will bring manatees and more sea life. There is an area of about 70 oak trees that are about 60 feet tall. They are magnificent,” Beisner said.
Fixing the parks ties in with the increased emphasis on eco-tourism in north county, said Adam Whittington, owner of Blueline Paddle Surf and Clothing on the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter.
Raising the height of the two U.S. 1 bridges on both sides of Burt Reynolds Park, the continuing development of Riverwalk and the recent completion of boat docks near Guanabanas restaurant and just north of the Harbourside development should bring more eco-tourism dollars to the area, said Whittington, whose company rents kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.
“Our customers will love Fullerton Island. They can go there and not have to dodge the power boats,” Whittington said.
At Riverbend/Loxahatchee Battlefield Park, the site of battles during the Seminole Wars in the 1830s, new historical markers and more parking are planned.
“The park and Jupiter Lighthouse will make a terrific package for visitors to learn about our history,” said Jupiter resident Richard Procyk, who gives monthly historic tours of battlefield sites at the 680-acre park.
Planned improvements to north county parks:
A. Waterway Park: Three boat ramps, staging docks, restroom, fishing platform and 60 trailer parking spaces. Cost: $4.2 million. Begin construction: Early 2015. Finish: 2016.
B. Burt Reynolds Park: New staging docks, demolition of existing building, new restroom and add 16 asphalt and 10 grass boat trailer parking spaces. Cost: $1.2 million. Begin construction: April. Finish: 2015.
C. Bert Winters Park: Additional boat trailer parking, boat ramp renovation and restroom. Cost: $1.5 million. Begin Construction: Late 2014. Finish: 2015.
D. Fullerton Island: Remove exotics and plant sea grasses and mangroves. Create public use areas for boat docking, picnicking and canoeing. Cost: $400,000. Begin Construction: July. Finish: Summer, 2014
E. Riverbend/Loxahatchee River Battlefield Park: New entrance, parking, historical marker and kiosk, park office and public restroom. Cost: $1.5 million. Begin Construction: 2015. Finish: 2016