The sandy shores attract nearly 2 million sunbathers, swimmers and snowbirds a year. Those folks pay to park along State Road A1A, eat in the waterfront restaurants and stay in the hotels.
Now, the city has agreed to open its wallet to help spruce up the amenities along the beach. Interim City Manager Terry Stewart said he will create a schedule to help plan for setting aside money for this upcoming fiscal year and years to come.
As the upcoming fiscal year’s budget is scheduled for final approval on Sept. 16, association members told commissioners they need more financial help from the city to keep the public beach a popular hangout. It is unclear how much money the city will spend on beach improvements this year.
City officials gave the OK to look into building a new concession and bathroom facility for Little Fenway field at Miller Park. Players and parents have been using portable potties since 2009, when the city destroyed an old, weathered structure built in 1975.
Another request came from Delray’s Center for the Arts at Old School Square. The group hasn’t received an increase in funds since 2009, but has continued its mission of fostering cultural arts. The center offers concerts, rotating museum exhibits and educational events for kids.
The beach decision came late Tuesday when members from the Beach Property Owners Association updated commissioners on beach conditions. They said that the city has mostly left the upkeep of the beach to the beach property owners.
“We were given this golden goose,” said Scott Porten, chairman of Delray’s Chamber of Commerce. “We need to protect it. You can’t build something and forget about it. It would be like not putting gas in your car.”
The association knows how important of an asset the beach is to the city. The group created an overall vision for the beach and continuously raises money to keep it pretty.
Their fundraising efforts led to a $60,000 contribution toward a new beach pavilion this year, which replaced a dangerous, worn-out one.
They also announced they received a $40,000 grant to replace two aging gazebos. The group plans to apply for another $40,000 grant to pay for pergolas.
Improvements would carry out the beach master plan that commissioners adopted in 2010. The plan outlines work needed to maintain a successful beach, such as adding new trash cans and showers and benches.
That wasn’t the only funding request that came in late Tuesday.
The request for this year jumps from $194,000 to $250,000. Commissioners said they want to find money in this year’s budget to fulfill the funding request.
For commissioners, it would be money well spent.
“It is the cultural cornerstone of this town,” said Mayor Cary Glickstein. “We have to start walking the talk and find the money.”