The Royal Palm Beach Village Council gave preliminary approval on Thursday, Aug 20 to change park operating hours to more specific hours, rather than “sunrise to sunset,” which is the only existing definition of most park operating hours.
The change is being made to be more consistent with parks in other municipalities and Palm Beach County, as well as help law enforcement.
Village Manager Ray Liggins explained that “sunrise to sunset” is difficult to enforce since the sun rises and sets at a different time each day.
“The desire for law enforcement at the parks is to have a specific time,” Liggins said. “The time that we picked in this ordinance was 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.”
The 8 a.m. opening was selected to correspond with the opening of bathrooms at the parks, he said, explaining that Parks & Recreation Department staff starts work at 7 a.m.
“The problem with this is that many walkers begin their walks at sunrise, which is before eight o’clock,” Liggins said. “I would not have a problem if we change this to 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., or even 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. We’ll just have to note that bathrooms will not be open until 8 a.m., and that would take care of the problem of people walking at Commons Park or the neighborhood parks before eight o’clock.”
Liggins added that Palm Beach County is currently under a COVID-19 order that has parks closed from sunset to sunrise.
“That’s a temporary order,” he said. “This would be in place after that order is rescinded.”
Councilwoman Jan Rodusky asked if there could be a problem with closing the parks at 9 p.m. in winter since the sun goes down earlier, and Liggins said the ordinance could be adjusted.
Councilman Richard Valuntas added that some special events go past 9 p.m., as well as sports activities. He asked if that would be a problem.
“Some events even go past 10 p.m., such as a wedding,” Valuntas said. “Is that going to apply?”
Liggins said there would be exceptions in the ordinance.
Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio said that the athletic parks would not be affected because they have outdoor lighting, and adding specific closing times for the other parks would help the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office with enforcement.
“If there are people lingering around, they have the option of asking them to leave and letting them know that the park is closed,” he said.
He reiterated that park personnel come to work at 7 a.m.
“It gives us an hour to get to all the parks and get everything opened up for the public,” Recchio said.
Councilwoman Selena Smith made a motion to approve the preliminary reading of the ordinance to have modified hours of operation as directed by staff, which carried 5-0.
Vivian A. Ferrin Memorial Park, which shares a campus with Royal Palm Beach Elementary School, will have different hours, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.