The Wellington Village Council last week approved a resolution supporting construction of a boat lift at an eastern water control structure on the C-51 Canal that will enable small boats to navigate from the Intracoastal Waterway as far as the water control structure on the south side of Southern Blvd. near State Road 7.
Village Manager Paul Schofield said that the project is part of a countywide trails program, including what he hopes will eventually enable boats to traverse the C-51 Canal from the Lake Worth Lagoon to Lake Okeechobee.
The resolution, which had been added to the agenda, supports the county’s Chain of Lakes & Trails Initiative, and a resolution by the Town of Lake Clarke Shores and neighboring municipalities to proceed with improvements to develop the boat lift.
“This particular one is from the Intracoastal Waterway from the Lake Worth Lagoon out to Lake Okeechobee,” Schofield said, recalling a grant the village received last year to build a path along Flying Cow Road, which is part of the same trail system. “There are no village dollars committed to this, and there is no budgetary impact, and it does allow connectivity along the C-51 Canal bank for both pedestrians, bicycles and those types of things.”
Schofield said that the resolution supports the plan in concept. “We’re not committing funds to it,” he said. “Mostly it’s the state’s trail system.”
Vice Mayor John Greene said he will support the resolution, but wished he had more background.
“All of a sudden it hits our desk at an agenda review meeting, and it’s up for adoption the following night,” Greene said. “Somebody’s behind it. I’d like to do some due diligence, look at maps and understand the impact potentially down the road.”
Schofield said that he had not had much longer than the council to look at it, but the trail system planning had begun in 2009, and Lake Clarke Shores and Boynton Beach had already approved resolutions. State funding is not currently available for the program, according to the county’s web site.
“The only reason that I ask to do it quickly is because they’re trying to get those resolutions in front of the legislature for funding, otherwise it would have waited a couple of weeks,” Schofield said.
Councilman John McGovern made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.
The Palm Beach County Commission approved a resolution to support the effort in December 2015, asking for a legislative appropriation for engineering design and permitting costs of a navigational structure linking the C-51 Canal with the Lake Worth Lagoon and the Intracoastal Waterway. The connection would most likely be a boat lift.
A feasibility study was also conducted by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. The boat lift would bring small boats up and around the control structure at Lake Worth Spillway Park, providing navigational linkage between the canal and the lagoon.
The study was financed by the Palm Beach County Metropolitan Planning Organization as part of its effort to expand modes of transportation.
Although plans are not currently underway for a boat lift at the water control structure near Southern Blvd. and SR 7, Schofield said he expects that there will be at some point, as well as another structure at 20-Mile Bend, leading to what he hopes will be a complete connection to Lake Okeechobee.
“Ultimately, if they’re going to implement the lagoon-to-lake trail system, they’re going to have to have those intermediate structures as well,” he told the Town-Crier on Wednesday. “What we’re supporting is the concept of having the lagoon to the lake connection. The immediate parts of that are the trail system. We already did that in Wellington. We used a grant to connect Section 24 out to the C-51 Canal, which is all a part of that connectivity program.”
Schofield pointed out that when he first moved to Palm Beach County, there were fewer than 300,000 residents.
“Today there are 1.3 million, and you’ve got to find ways to get them back and forth and do some recreation with those facilities that we have,” he said. “The Lake Worth Lagoon has a rich history, and Lake Okeechobee does. They used to haul vegetables on barges from the lake to the coast. The C-51 is our version of the Erie Canal. It would be good to have that back.”