A Walk in the Park

The great outdoors is greater in Boca Raton

 While many people associate the color pink with Boca Raton, another color has become just as prominent: green. It is the natural world of Boca Raton that lends the city its romantic character and has prompted its residents to reserve undeveloped areas for parkland. In fact, Boca Raton is known for its stellar park system, its miles of undeveloped oceanfront (including a snorkeling reef) and its foresight in planning to preserve green spaces.

Boca Raton’s Recreation Services Department is one of the finest in tile county, maintaining 25 parks with facilities such as picnic tables, pavilions, grills, playgrounds, fitness trails, tennis courts, baseball fields, boat docks and swimming pools. The department also sponsors golf and tennis championships, a fishing festival, free public concerts throughout the city s park system and special events for Halloween, Easter, Fourth of July and the winter holidays, including a holiday parade and tree lighting.

Boca Raton offers numerous sports facilities and recreational adult leagues and also is an innovator when it comes to a city non-smoking policy in parks, a law adopted in 2001—a full two years before the Florida Legislature banned smoking in restaurants.

One of Boca Raton’s most well-known parks is Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex and Nature Center, which provides education, research and conservation programs in a natural coastal hammock covering 20 acres. Center activities include a Sea Turtle Conservation Program, a full schedule of classes, field trips, the popular Summer Turtle Walk program and exhibits that interpret the natural history of the South Atlantic coastal area. A one-third mile boardwalk and viewing tower—as well as a hands-on ‘touch” tank with marine life—helps visitors experience the hammock by the sea. For more information, call 561/338-1473.

Another unique park in Boca Raton is the “Dog Park” off Broken Sound Boulevard in the T-Rex Technology Center. This special 2-acre play area for dogs comes equipped with ground-level water fountains and sections for both small dogs (under 30 pounds) and large ones (more than 30 pounds). The park is free and operates from 9 a.m. until dusk six days a week. On Wednesdays, the park opens at noon. To find out other specific park rules, call 561/393-7821

Sugar Sand Park is a large stretch of land (132 acres) on the southeast corner of Palmetto Park Road and Military Trail. The park contains a community center, which includes a 150-seat theater that accommodates performances by local community theater groups. The facility also hosts events and art exhibits and provides meeting space for civic groups. The Children’s Science Explorium is housed inside the center and offers hands-on interactive exhibits and science programs. The park also has two nature trails that allow public access to its pine flat-woods and Florida scrub. For more information, call 561/347-3900 for the Community Center and 561/347-3913 for the Explorium.

Spanish River Park takes its name from the shallow freshwater stream that once flowed along what is now the western edge of the park, before the Army Corps of Engineers made it part of the Intracoastal Waterway. While early maps show the river as “Boca Raton’s Lagoon,” later settlers and developers renamed it the old Spanish River. Remnants of the meandering stream bed still are visible in the park. Fishing in the Intracoastal Waterway is one of the favorite pastimes of many park visitors. No fishing license is required for saltwater fishing from the shoreline. Surf fishing in designated swimming areas during normal swimming hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) is prohibited.

Red Reef Park (561/393-7974) has a dune boardwalk with observation gazebos, a protected beach, play areas, tables, grills and picnic facilities. Professional lifeguards are on duty from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. The shallow reef here is noted for its wide variety of tropical fish and is an excellent choice for snorkeling.

In addition to parks and the preservation of pristine land, the city also has a serious commitment to beautification through various pro-grains and the strict landscape and aesthetic requirements it places on developers. For example, the city requires developers to pay for tree replacement and relocation.

For more than 20 years, Boca Raton has been certified as a Tree City. U.S.A., an award presented by the National Arbor Day Foundation that recognizes excellence in the planning, maintaining and protection of trees. The city established a comprehensive roadway beautification program in July 1983. Since then, 163 miles of city entrances, medians and interstate interchanges have been landscaped and irrigated.

There are several environmentally sensitive lands and parks in Boca Raton. The 9-acre Serenoa Preserve adjacent to George Snow Park on Northwest 15th Street across from Florida Atlantic University features a handicapped-accessible trail, a kiosk/information center and a hiking trail. George Snow Park has restrooms, basketball courts and tennis courts as well.

Blazing Star Preserve, which borders the Hillsboro Slough, covers more than 24 acres along Interstate 95 between Palmetto Park Road and Camino Real. This Florida scrub landscape has a small wetland and is a habitat for gopher tortoises and a number of rare plant species, including the preserve’s namesake, a purple, spikey wildflower.

Recreation services can be reached at 561/393-7927 or 561/393-7806. Be sure to ask for a copy of The Recreator, a tri-annual publication that informs residents about current programs and classes, as well as parks and recreational amenities.

  Source: Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, BOCA RATON ANNUAL 2003-2004

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