Riverbend Park’s $3 million renovation still missing its main feature

Updated Dec 18, 2017
Plans call for demolishing the building now housing county park employees (left) at Riverbend/Loxahatchee River Battlefield Park near Jupiter. The chickee hut will be repaired. (Photo/Bill DiPaolo)

Disappointment was the reaction Samantha Livas had when she pulled into the new paved parking lot at Riverbend Park, part of the $3 million renovation completed six weeks ago.

“Where’s the place to rent a kayak?” she asked a couple unloading their bicycles from their car trunk. When told the concession stand was gone, she turned to her passengers in the back seat and frowned.

That reaction is common since the Palm Beach County Park in Jupiter Farms held a grand opening Nov. 4 to celebrate new paved parking, observation areas and historical panels on Seminole War battles. A new concession stand was also planned to open that day.

But construction problems, as well as glitches installing electronic equipment, pushed back the opening of the new concession stand where visitors can rent kayaks, bicycles and canoes.

“We expect to open by February,” said Eric Call, executive director of the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department.

Kayakers and canoers can bring their own watercraft and launch them from Picnic Island in Riverbend Park/Loxahatchee Battlefield Park. The gravel bicycle trails that wind through the park are open to those who bring their own. The new restrooms and water fountains are open.

As Palm Beach County’s beautiful weather days increase, questions — and the sad faces — come every day from park visitors, said Bobby Seal, interim park coordinator. He tells them about the alternative locations to rent kayaks, such as Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

“They are disappointed when they hear the news,” said Seal.

Kayaks, bicycles, canoes — as well as maps, candy bars, water and bug spray — were available for rent for the last 35 years from the brown and white trailer that housed Canoe Outfitters of Florida Inc. The company ended its lease with the county when construction started last year on the renovation at the park on the south side of Indiantown Road, about a mile west of Florida’s Turnpike.

The Canoe Outfitters trailer was demolished. The company ran a temporary concession stand on Picnic Island in Riverbend Park during the construction.

The new concession stand will be built on the same general location as Canoe Outfitters, near the chickee hut attached to a building that now houses offices for the nine park employees.

But the park employees can’t move in until the electronic work is done in the new structure. Their old building will then be demolished. The chickee hut will be renovated, Call said.

The county is accepting bids for a new concession stand operator. A mobile home could be used temporarily for the new concession stand. Long-range plans call for constructing a permanent concession stand building, said Call.

“We want a new building that will mirror the open-beam, metal roof, old-style Florida look of the new building,” said Call.

Meanwhile, Livas and her pals, who drove down from Hobe Sound, need another place to rent a kayak besides Riverbend Park.

“I don’t get why they would do all this work and you can’t rent a kayak. That’s the best thing about this place,” she said.