Input Meeting For County’s Off-Road Vehicle Park Plan Aug. 19 At Acreage Library

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay will host a public meeting on Thursday, Aug. 19 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Acreage branch library (15801 Orange Blvd.) about the off-road vehicle park being planned at 20-Mile Bend near the intersection of State Road 80 and State Road 880.

Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation staff will be there to provide information and receive public comment.

“I look forward to hearing the public’s input on Palm Beach County’s much-anticipated off-highway vehicle park,” McKinlay told the Town-Crier on Wednesday. “It will be an exciting, long overdue recreational facility for residents and visitors and provide a safe place for enthusiasts to ride. It will also help spur economic development in the western region of our county and add yet another jewel to our renowned tourism destinations.”

The Palm Beach County Commission approved the concept of the park in July after hearing a feasibility report from county staff.

The commissioners authorized the county administrator to prepare a needs analysis and feasibility study for the development of an off-highway vehicle (OHV) park at the county’s property near 20-Mile Bend in 2013. The Parks & Recreation Department assembled a steering committee including representatives from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the South Florida Water Management District, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, other county departments and OHV enthusiasts to undertake the needs analysis and study.

The study was completed in 2015 but was not submitted, since other board-approved projects became priorities. The report was recently updated in an effort to provide the latest information that more accurately reflects current market conditions.

The report concludes that there is a demonstrated need for an OHV park in Palm Beach County because residents regularly travel to Miami-Dade County, Okeechobee County and beyond to participate in trail riding and other OHV activities. The need for additional off-road vehicle opportunities has also been identified by the state legislature and state land management agencies.

According to the county staff report, the 20-Mile Bend site is ideal in that it is centrally located with convenient access from Southern Blvd. The county owns 128 acres at the site, which includes 34 acres recently purchased from the SFWMD. With that acquisition, there is sufficient space to include OHV trail riding, an ATV/motorcross track, a supercross track, and additional OHV amenities that would make the park a sustainable and nationally recognized facility.

The report concludes that developing an OHV park on the site will provide a positive economic benefit for the county. Based upon a review of previous economic impact studies completed for existing OHV sites in other Florida locations, the report estimates that users will conservatively spend more than $6 million annually on gas, food, lodging, entertainment and miscellaneous items while visiting Palm Beach County. The public will also likely spend an estimated $11 million annually on related purchases, such as ATVs, trailers and support vehicles.

Multiple agencies — such as the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management, the SFWMD, the PBSO, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and the State of Florida — support the development of an OHV park in South Florida. It is anticipated that the development of the park would reduce the number of OHV accidents and injuries on public roads and lands, as well as the amount of destructive illegal riding currently occurring on environmentally sensitive and other public lands.

The development of the park as a county-funded project is estimated to cost between $6 million to $10 million. Due to county funding constraints, it is anticipated that development of the park would need to be phased over a number of years as funds become available and would likely divert funding available for other park projects.

Since there is private sector interest in both the development and operation of an OHV park, the county funding requirement could be substantially reduced or eliminated through a public/private partnership, thereby accelerating the timeframe for development of the park.