Sunday, April 23, 2017

The future of the Lake Worth Beach: A “passive park” or a commercial enterprise for our City and a benefit for residents?

The historic images below are looking south along the barrier island. The Lake Worth Casino building is approximately in the middle of each image. I don’t think it’s necessary to label them “Before” and “After”.

In this image A1A is west of the Casino structure:

In this postcard, prior to the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane, A1A was east of the Casino along the Beach:
Compare and contrast: The tremendous amount of “infill” development on the barrier island.

In the top image you can see the substantial amount of new land created by dredging and “filling in” the Lake Worth Lagoon. All of the area west of the western loop road at the City’s Beach property is infill. To the north (closest to you in the above pictures) there is an area of fill east and west of A1A. The area to the north of the Lake Worth bridge was done in two phases with the western side completed last.

Obviously there is a drastic difference between the 20s era postcard and the more current picture in the way of construction and pavement. However, the Lake Worth Beach is amazing for standing the test of time and remaining a public piece of property. I think that we can all agree on that. Remarkable.

But should the Casino and Beach be a “public” what? The argument bubbling up again is the idea of a more “passive park”. Returning the Beach property to a “less commercial” endeavor.

For a moment, let’s consider the option of a purely ‘passive’ public park with less commercial activity or with the same amount of commercial activity as there is today. One thing the images above show is whatever natural area was there circa the 20s, you have to look pretty hard to find anything natural that resembles the pristine conditions of yesteryear now. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a drastically altered eco-system that shows the impact of humankind over time.

Even a ‘passive’ park would need public access and public parking. For more Green space wouldn’t a multi-level parking structure be a way to consolidate parking? Are we ready to consider that yet? Or do we consolidate parking in our Downtown and shuttle people to the Beach? That may have merit with some in the environmental and ecological community but probably wouldn’t fly with the public.

Just a guess here, but don’t think the typical family from Wellington or Greenacres would be so cool with that idea.

The proponents of a ‘passive’ park and less commercial activity at the Beach like to refer to the Beach as a “dune”. But that’s only true if you then consider the entire barrier island a dune. No matter how you look at it, there’s nothing natural or pristine about any of it any more.

And lastly, going forward, taking in the entire Casino property and including the municipal pool in the equation, should the taxpayers here in the City of Lake Worth be tasked with subsidizing a new pool for other residents in the County to use? Building a multi-tier parking garage would make a profit over time.

A new pool at the Beach will not make a profit. It will be an amenity: an amenity the vast majority of Lake Worth residents will never use. But they will have to pay for it, nonetheless.

So to the question: If the City decides to construct a new municipal pool where should it be? At the Beach where it’s already $4 to park? Then for a family of four, $4 more for each adult and $2 for each child: that’s $16 each trip to use the pool and go swimming. That’s a high price to pay for a typical family here in the City of Lake Worth.