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Ocean Strand designers kick off park planning with site review

BOCA RATON Designers kicked off the planning process for a new waterfront park Monday at a meeting of the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Parks District.

The site analysis focused on vegetation, landscape, environmental concerns and permitting considerations and for the first time gave residents a chance to talk about the project. The meeting was held at 5:15 p.m. at Sugar Sand Park.

"It is a very special place because it has both oceanfront and Intracoastal frontage," said Gerald Marston, director of design at Curtis and Rogers, who presented a report on the 15-acre parcel along Ocean Strand Drive from Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Ocean Strand site could accommodate a variety of facilities, but the public and the district should consider trying to provide amenities that Boca Raton's other oceanfront parks lack, Marston said.

State and federal regulations could limit the size and types of boating amenities, docks and piers that could be installed, said Christy Brush, director of Coastal Systems International Inc., which completed the biological survey of the site.

"The kinds of uses that can go there are probably limited because of the shallowness of the water and the kinds of sea grasses that are there," she said. "There are a lot of overlapping criteria and you have to meet all of them."

The future of the Ocean Strand site has been at the center of a controversy about private development on public lands since developer Penn Florida proposed a private beach club on the site more than a year ago.

"The commissioners still seemed to be asking questions to see whether private development on the Intracoastal side might be feasible, and I was very encouraged that it would be hard to do without a lot of permitting," said Martin Siml, a leader of Keep your Boca Beaches Public, a group that is trying to ban private development on public land near the ocean.

Curtis and Rogers' site report is available for download at mybocaparks.org, and a schedule of public meetings on the park design will be announced soon, Chairman Dennis Frisch said.

"We hope there will be some congruence of ideas about what should be in the park, and we're looking forward to what will come from public input," he said.

By Rebekah Monson, Sun Sentinel