County Considering An ATV Park Near 20-Mile Bend

Palm Beach County has several projects underway in the area of 20-Mile Bend, including a new bridge, improved roadways and possibly a park for all-terrain vehicles.

Improvements are in progress on County Road 880, which includes rebuilding the canal bank that runs alongside it. There are also plans, currently set for 2019, to replace the old swinging truss bridge built there in 1937.

Last month, Palm Beach County agreed to purchase almost 40 acres of land west of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office shooting range from the South Florida Water Management District for $404,000 to complete a triangle of county-owned property in the area. Other proposed uses besides an ATV park include an emergency communications tower.

At the Dec. 15 meeting of the Palm Beach County Commission, Director of Facilities Development & Operations Audrey Wolf said that the county has been pursuing the acquisition of the property for several years.

“We wanted to acquire all of it for county purposes from the beginning,” she said. “The first thing to be built on this property was the sheriff’s shooting range. A few years later, the SFWMD actually donated land for a public shooting range. It subsequently was not built because of funding constraints, and we made the sheriff’s shooting range available to the public on certain weekends.”

Since then, a new shooting range has been designated on a piece of the Mecca Farms property near the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area north of The Acreage.

Wolf said that the property has gone through several possible iterations for government use, including a Palm Beach State College campus, which ultimately ended up in the Town of Loxahatchee Groves.

Aside from the 86 acres originally donated by the SFWMD, the county has been looking into acquiring the rest.

“They still at that time had plans for the property, and there was actually a master plan that shows how they would use their remaining portion,” Wolf said. “It’s only recently that they cleared the final portion of this property as surplus. Because of the county pursuing it for so long, and seeing these multiple county uses that could be put there, we felt now was the time to move forward with the acquisition.”

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay asked if the property was in active agricultural production. Until the county figures out what to do with it, she wanted it to remain in active agricultural production. However, county staff noted that the SFWMD terminated the lease with the farmer due to its location near the stormwater treatment areas and concerns about pollution from pesticides.

Because the county has facilities sitting next to it, staff members agreed that it was appropriate to take title of the rest of the properties so that it can protect the existing uses it has and use it for future uses that need to be in an area far removed from development.

McKinlay said one of those uses is an ATV park and asked whether that is still being considered at some point in the future if money becomes available. Wolf said that would be one of the uses that would be there.

“Can we make sure that is publicized somewhere? Because I don’t want that to become a ‘not in my back yard’ issue with the Highland Dunes development,” McKinlay said. “They’ve already put shovels in the ground, and we’re going to have a residential neighborhood close to there.”

Wolf said that the county already has conditions with Highland Dunes and other developments in the area that disclose the shooting range. “We’ve already taken care of that with the shooting range alone,” she said.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker said that her staff would double-check to make sure that the conditions are broad enough to cover all of the potential uses, including an ATV park.

Commissioner Hal Valeche made a motion to approve the purchase, which carried 5-0 with commissioners Paulette Burdick and Shelley Vana absent.