Boca Resort president Rick Hayduk hosted the three-hour informational and feedback session, calling it a “conversion.”.
“Beaches are truly a national treasure and need re-investment,” he said. “We lost half our beaches since Sandy, and the time has come for a formal, long-term plan, a combination of government, private business and citizens to handle anything Mother Nature throws at us.”
Speakers talked about the effect of beaches on property values, the fishing industry, tourism and business, and John Englander was among those presenting and commenting on sea level rise and global warming.
The discussion centered on how to balance environmental concerns like sea turtles with a permanent plan to pay for beach and dune re-nourishment and simplify the permitting process. Gumbo Limbo Nature Center’s turtle maven, marine conservationist Kirt Rusenko was introduced, but didn’t speak.
Three members of Boca Raton City Council, State Rep. Bill Hager, Highland Beach Mayor Bernard Featherman and Palm Beach Commission Mayor Steven Abrams sat through the program. “I’m pleased the group is expanding, but we have to go beyond north and south to east and west,” Abrams said afterward. “Property values on the coast help fund services for all residents.”
He’s working with the Department of Environmental Protection on inlets, he added.
Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie said afterward she’s a member of a four-county coastal commission that meets regularly and is focusing on the Army Corps of Engineers and a cumbersome permitting process.
“This is not something in the future that one community can tackle on its own,” Boca Councilman Anthony Majhess, who is on their advisory board, said afterward.
Lobbyist Tom DeRita said the goal is coming up with a marketing plan and legislative initiative. “If you woke up one day and saw the beaches had disappeared, how would you feel?” he said.
Steve Laine was the master of ceremonies, and Beach Condo Association Jack Fox were among the speakers. Protect Our Beaches is looking for “strength in numbers,” and they’re asking $80 for an annual membership; $1,000 for an associate and $2,500 for corporate. Membership includes an e-newsletter, government update and action alerts. Visit beachescoalition.com.