By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer
Boca Parks & Recreation Dept. has launched a new campaign to get residents involved in planning for the future of the city’s parks, trails, beaches, libraries, recreation facilities, athletic fields, programs and services.
About 50 people rang in on their top priorities for Parks & Rec. at a Thursday evening summer public kickoff meeting at the Downtown Library at 400 NW 2 Ave.
The RECreate Boca needs assessment is a joint venture between the city and the Beach & Park District. It is projected to cost $90,000 to $95,000 and take 10 to 12 months to complete.
“Clicker” devices were handed out to all in attendance, giving them a chance to literally ring in on multiple-choice questions about the community. Later, each resident got to participate in a brainstorming session, with responses recorded on a large white paper tablet to be considered in future planning.
Hosting the RECreate Boca visioning session were Parks & Rec. Director Michael Kalvort, who welcomed two of the top professionals from Pros Consulting Inc.,Vice President Neelay K. Bhatt and Consultant Brayton McClure from Indianapolis along with Principal of Perez Planning & Design LLC Carlos Perez from Atlanta to co-host.
Boca staff involved in the project include Director Kalvort, Deputy Recreation Services Director Michelle Zimmer and Interim Beach & Parks District Executive Director Briann Harms.
Also in attendance were Mayor Singer, City Council Members Monica Mayotte and Andy Thomson, as well as Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District Chair Susan Vogelgesang. Retired former Boca Parks & Rec. Director for many years, Mickey Gomez, listened intently to future plans.
“Everything starts with these [public] meetings,” said Kalvort, who expressed the sentiments of many residents as, “I don’t want someone coming to my community and telling me what is good for me.”
Residents chimed in on three key areas :
Strengths – Active community, affluent, well maintained parks, free yoga classes, a lot of parkland devoted to the beachfront, limited development on the beach, proximity to the inlet, great tennis, two beautiful libraries (Spanish River and Downtown), great park ranger program, a lot of pools, top notch safety and security, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, the Beach & Park District as an independent means of collecting revenue.
Opportunity to Improve – Improve bike safety and awareness, bike trail being built right now should show greater connectivity (it doesn’t go all the way to A1A), keep up with pickleball trend, dog-friendly parks and trails, improve maintenance at Spanish River Park, marina, improve city sustainability, protect our trees, consider adult and senior center, develop functional relationship between City and Beach & Park District.
No. 1 priorities – Aquatic center, massive recreation center, multi-generational recreation center, identify true needs of the community, new maintenance facility, resident satisfaction, greater awareness of Boca’s offerings, develop road map for the future, programs focused on the citizens of Boca and the District, much more pickleball, more aquatics – marina and pool, upgrade Gumbo Limbo, bike trails, engage college students.
Pros Consulting Inc.,Vice President Neelay K. Bhatt brought up the demographics of the city.
He said Boca Raton has an estimated 123,981 population. The 2010 Census nine years ago reported 84,392 people. A 2016 projection estimated 96,114. The trend is for the population to continue to grow at a rate of 1.18 percent growth, he said.
The fastest growing age segment in Boca is the 55-to-74 age group, described as “active adults, who refuse to call themselves seniors, and don’t act like it.”
Projections are for 23 percent of the population to be Hispanic/Latino by 2033.
Different groups have different Parks & Recreation preferences, Bhatt said. “You don’t want to build a bunch of basketball courts where someone like me lives. I could play cricket all day, whereas a white [male] may tend to prefer hunting and fishing. [That’s why] a one size fits all approach to recreation doesn’t work.”
Brayton McClure looked at local trends in Boca, with the top-rated recreational activities ranked 1.Tennis (139 votes); 2. Golf (128 votes); and 3. Soccer (111 votes).
Other growing recreational pastimes include: fitness, yoga, Pilates, weight lifting, hiking, biking (road or mountain), backpacking, canoe/kayaking, and fishing (salt water), he said.
Those who did not get to attend the kickoff workshop but would like to voice their opinions on future Parks & Rec. endeavors can go to www.BocaRecreates.com