Beach & Park District Wants Progress on Athletic Fields

June 3, 2016

Residents were promised four new athletic fields nearly four years ago. And elected officials have yet to deliver.

The latest tie-up, officials say: a strained relationship between the two partners charged with building the fields — the city and the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District.

"The residents are getting hurt when projects are not completed," said Briann Harms, assistant director of the beach and park district. "These are public spaces and they should be developed for residents' use. In the end, that's the greatest consequence — that residents don't get access to the spaces they should."

Boca is growing rapidly, and the city is looking at several thousand people living in new buildings downtown. So upgrading Boca's parks to accommodate additional users is more important than ever, Harms said.

As a result, district chairman Robert K. Rollins Jr. will ask the city to move forward with a plan to construct four natural grass fields at Countess de Hoernle Park during a 1:30 p.m. public meeting Monday at City Hall, located at 201 W. Palmetto Park Road.

Planning for the new fields at 1000 Spanish River Blvd. began in late 2012. But those plans were stalled when officials could not agree on whether the fields should be natural or artificial turf.

Then at a joint summit last June, the entities reached a consensus: They would build the natural grass fields at de Hoernle Park and install three artificial turf fields at Patch Reef Park, located at 2000 Yamato Road.

But when it came time to sign an official agreement last year, the two sides could not see eye to eye on each entity's responsibility when it comes to Boca's parks. And a joint meeting scheduled for last December has been postponed indefinitely.

"We are not working as partners, and we are not getting anything done," Councilman Robert Weinroth said.

Rollins privately met with Mayor Susan Haynie in February to discuss de Hoernle Park, among other issues. Both have said the private meeting was productive, but no progess has been made since the meeting.

"It's in everyone's best interest that we can work together, and I think the council knows that," Haynie said. "When we met, [Rollins] wanted to go before the whole council. It's taken a while to get to that point."

emiller@sun-sentinel.com, 561-243-6531, Twitter @EmilyBethMiller or visit our 'Sun Sentinel: Boca Raton' community page at SunSentinel.com/facebookboca

Copyright © 2016, Sun Sentinel

NEWS