A new kayak launching stand, outdoor public pavilion, parking lot and observation areas will greet visitors at the expected Nov. 4 ribbon-cutting of Riverbend/Loxahatchee River Battlefield Park — but that’s not what has visitors excited.
“Public toilets and drinking water. That’s what people are looking forward to,” said Steven Bergkamp, referring to the facilities that have been missing in the one-square-mile park on the south side of Indiantown Road about a mile west of Florida’s Turnpike.
The new public restrooms in Riverbend Park will be located at the main office building and at Picnic Island. The ribbon-cutting is planned to go along with the annual Pioneer Family Farmstead Day held at the park. The new restrooms replace port-o-potties.
“Yes, I will be happy to see those outhouses go away. I think Palm Beach County can do a little better,” said Russell Bonnell, a Stuart resident who was finishing a hike on a recent steamy Tuesday morning in the park.
Riverbend is becoming a recreation hub and the current improvements will give kayakers, hikers, bicycle riders and equestrians an alternative to driving, Palm Beach County officials say. Riverbend connects to Northeast Everglades Natural Area, Northeast Everglades Trail, Bluegill Trail and Ocean-To-Lake Trail systems.
Five more miles of the Bluegill Trail opened in November of last year. Pedestrians, hikers, cyclists and equestrians now have access from Riverbend south to Grassy Waters Preserve in West Palm Beach.
Palm Beach County’s Bluegill Trail follows the eastern side of the C-18 Canal between Riverbend Park in Jupiter and Karen T. Marcus Sandhill Crane Access Park in Palm Beach Gardens.
The first five-mile section from Riverbend Park south to Sandhill Crane Park on the north side of PGA Boulevard, just west of Mirasol, opened about three years ago. The 10-foot-wide trail is made of asphalt rock that is especially popular with mountain bikers.
That new section from Sandhill Crane Park south to the Grassy Water Preserve is paved — suitable for thin tires — and is 12-feet wide. The cost for the project was about $580,000, and was paid by the Florida Department of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organization, West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens.
The Picnic Island canoe rental in Riverbend is being used for rentals and canoe launchings until the project is finished. Canoe Outfitters will have the option of renewing their lease with the county.
The park has been open since the work started last August.
Keeping the park’s “primitive and rustic feel” is the overall goal, said Eric Call, the county’s director of parks and recreation.
“This is the first major capital infusion we have made into this park for a while,” he said.
Riverbend/Loxahatchee River Battlefield Park improvements include:
- Demolishing the bicycle/kayak rental trailer and the nearby building used by county park employees. The chickee hut between the two buildings will remain.
- A new building for county park officials with public restrooms, with an outdoor pavilion for meetings.
- A temporary rental/concession stand will be at Picnic Island.
- The unpaved parking lot will be replaced by a grassy area. A 100-space paved lot is planned east of the current parking lot.
- An observation area is planned on the berm located just west of the current parking lot. Panels explaining the historic Seminole War battles are planned.
- Flush toilets will replace the current port-o-potties. Bringing potable water to the park means that visitors can fill their water bottles with drinkable water inside the park.
- A new launching area for kayakers is planned near the former Canoe Outfitters location.