Palm Beach County is studying whether to build a park for off-road vehicles, such as ATVs, at 20-Mile Bend after the Palm Beach County Commission authorized staff this week to put together a package for formal consideration.
The discussion was held at a commission workshop on Tuesday, June 22. Assistant County Administrator Dorritt Miller said that county staff had analyzed the feasibility of building an off-road park. Those findings were presented, and commissioners were asked where to go from there.
Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation Director Eric Call said that after many calls for an off-road park, staff prepared a needs and feasibility report for 128 acres of former agricultural land west of the PBSO shooting range with help from many agencies, including the South Florida Water Management District, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Wildlands Task Force and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which found no environmental concerns.
ATV enthusiasts and groups also participated in the study. The report was updated recently to reflect current market conditions.
“Our research reveals that the closest facilities are in Okeechobee and southern Miami-Dade counties, and there is a need to accommodate local ATVs,” Call said.
He added that there are 14,000 titled off-highway vehicles in Palm Beach County and about 50,000 within a 50-mile radius.
“The state legislature and many land management agencies have identified the need for additional riding opportunities in South Florida, and the 20-Mile Bend site is strongly supported,” Call said. “It is expected that a destination park will reduce the number of riding accidents and injuries on public roads and significantly reduce the destruction caused by riding on environmentally sensitive lands.”
Three operational models were considered: county managed, private operator or not-for-profit. The estimated construction costs are $3 million for phase 1 and $8 million for complete buildout. The annual operating and maintenance costs are estimated at $280,000 at buildout, and annual revenue is estimated at $315,000 at buildout.
Call said the venue is expected to increase tourism and become a source of economic development and revenue, with growing interest from the private sector to develop and operate the facility. He added that he had spoken with George Linley, executive director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, about the proposed park.
“In addition, the park will provide economic benefits in the form of jobs, retail sales of food and beverages, fuel, vehicle sales and lodging,” he said. “Our analysis has revealed that there is a private sector interest in both the development and operation of this park.”
Call said that the county’s best option would be to pursue a contractual relationship with an outside party to design, develop and operate the park.
“In doing so, the county funding requirements can be substantially reduced or eliminated, and the timeline for the park’s development could be accelerated,” he said.
If the commissioners were to choose that option, he recommended leasing the property for a dollar a year and sharing the proceeds following a grace period.
District 6 Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said she was pleasantly surprised at the report.
“This is an idea that has been tossed around for years,” McKinlay said. “This almost seems too easy, but I’m excited about that.”
She reflected on the number of people, especially young people, who have been injured or killed while riding in unauthorized areas.
“People are looking for a place to go, a facility to be able to enjoy this hobby,” she said. “Seeing that there’s a potential for an economic benefit for the local community, and the sports commission is on board, I’m very excited. I’d be happy to give staff formal direction to put this together as a package to present to us at a county commission meeting.”