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Possible New Name for Ocean Strand to honor “Park Legend”

by Michele Kurucz Peel

The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District considered several requests in public comment on Monday to rename the Ocean Strand property for legendary park advocate Gordon Gilbert, perhaps as the “Gordon Gilbert Park & Preserve”.   

These suggestions arose after Chairwoman Vogelgesang asked for ideas to honor Gilbert, who will be celebrating his 90th birthday in January 2021.  Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke expressed her support of the idea in an email, citing Gilbert’s “immeasurable contributions to our community’s nature, animal life, green space and recreation.” 

Gilbert may be best known in connection with Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, since he was its first manager and continues to be a tireless advocate for marine education.  However, Mr. Gilbert’s impact on the Boca Raton community is actually much deeper and long lasting.    

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center

About Gordon Gilbert

During his 30 years as an elected commissioner of the District and 46 years appointed to City of Boca Raton’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Gilbert’s leadership shaped community attitudes toward the purchase and development of natural and active recreation areas for decades.  See our article “Why is it important to protect green space?” for more about this strategy. Through his vision and initiative, the community acquired more than 1,000 acres of land for public parks and nature preserves.  This has really been a major differentiator for Boca Raton as compared to other communities.

His leadership in conservation and preservation of natural spaces for community use resulted in the Ocean Strand property acquisition in 1994 for $11.9 Million to avoid residential development of the site at that time.   After 25 years, that property is finally being turned into a park by the District with a park opening planned for February 2021.

In an article in the Sun Sentinel on May 11, 2003 the former City of Boca Raton Parks and Recreation Director was quoted on Mr. Gilbert’s impact in our community.   “His imprint is everywhere here,” said Mickey Gomez, Boca Raton director of Recreation Services. “It’s because of Gordon Gilbert that Boca Raton is truly a city within a park.”

The District is seeking input from the public and has placed the topic of renaming Ocean Strand on their January 4th 2021 meeting agenda for discussion.  Public comments can be sent to District Executive Director Briann Harms at bharms@mybocaparks.org

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