Members of the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Advisory Board on Monday discussed the results of last weekend’s workshop regarding future plans for Royal Palm Beach Commons Park.
The workshop was held last Saturday at the park’s sporting center.
Councilman Richard Valuntas, liaison to the board, said between 30 and 40 people attended, mostly for or against proposed entrances and pathways at the north end of the park.
“I thought it was a pretty well-run meeting,” Valuntas said. “They broke up into six or seven groups. The main issue was that the village had purchased a property at 109 Heron Parkway.”
The lot where the home is located was put on the master plan for Commons Park as a pedestrian entrance, with the house set for demolition.
“The house had been blighted for several years and was a nuisance to people in the neighborhood,” Vauntas said, explaining that the village had purchased the property toward the end of last year. “My thought in purchasing the property was to create another access point and to provide an emergency-only entrance for police or fire vehicles. No other traffic is going to come in there, but to have another access point.”
Valuntas noted that he attended last year’s Fourth of July celebration at Commons Park when an emergency response was seriously delayed due to traffic on Royal Palm Beach Blvd.
“I saw an ambulance stuck in traffic for about an hour, and that was completely unacceptable,” Valuntas said.
Valuntas added that some residents came to a council meeting who weren’t happy with the prospect of having a pedestrian and bicycle entranceway at 109 Heron Parkway, but pointed out that at a more recent council meeting, other residents presented a petition favoring the entrance.
“We had people show up at the [planning] meeting and do workshops, and they got to go on a tour of where they were speculating on not only the entranceway, but also the projected path for the bike and walking trail toward the northern end of the park,” Valuntas said.
By the end of the meeting, most attending were not opposed to a bike and pedestrian pathway there, he said.
“They raised a bunch of legitimate concerns, the main one being parking when we have big events,” he said. “We can’t have parking overwhelming the neighborhoods and creating a public safety hazard by blocking the roadways.”
Valuntas said the village can address parking issues, as well as other recommendations made by residents, including buffering and landscaping. “It seems that everyone at the end of the day figured that another entrance/exit point was a good idea,” he said.
Valuntas noted that there is another entrance on the southwest corner of the park at Grouse Lane, but it goes over a pedestrian bridge not accessible by emergency vehicles.
Other questions were raised about whether residents wanted a bike path from the FPL bike path to connect to the park, and opinion was divided on that, Valuntas said.
“It still has to go back to the council,” he said. “It’s nothing that’s done. The consultant is going to do a report and present it to the council, and at some time in the future, we will take that up as an issue, and people can come and tell us what they think.”
Board Member Tony Smith asked how the workshop was structured, and Valuntas said the breakout groups were done randomly. As a result, pro-entranceway residents were mixed with anti-entranceway residents.
The breakout groups also discussed other issues, including a proposed bike path inside the park, and two members of each group actually took a golf cart tour of the area where the path was proposed to go.
“At the end, each group had someone give a presentation,” he said. “They made notes throughout the process, which they turned over to the consultant, which they will use and incorporate into their report. I thought it was a very helpful endeavor, and it was nice of so many people to give up their Saturday morning.”
New Board Member Marcus Williams said he attended the park workshop and was able to take the golf cart ride to the northern section. “It provided us the opportunity to see it and really view what they’re trying to do, and the accommodations they are making to the public,” Williams said. “It was definitely worth my time to attend.”
Board Chairman John Ruffa was pleased with the progress of the park and the village’s interest in hearing input from residents.
“The park is having an effect on the whole community,” Ruffa said. “I had a conversation with a resident on Swan Parkway today who was closing on a house to move to Tennessee. They’ve been waiting to sell for several years, and they received about $35,000 more than the most common web site said their house was worth because of the park.”
However, Ruffa added that he would like the committee to receive a report on the pending litigation between the village and the park’s builder. “I don’t think that has ever been brought to this board as far as a report,” he said.