Kayak anyone? Friends explore Deerfield Island Park

Posted on 14 September 2015 by LeslieM

kayak091015By Rachel Galvin

When Ira Wechterman first proposed setting up a kayak ramp at Hillsboro Cove Condominiums in Deerfield Beach, a 55-year-old and over condo, he thought the response would be small. Boy, was he wrong. His project has taken on a life much bigger than he expected.

I was pestering our dock master to see if we could get a system set up for kayaks. He said, ‘There are 10 empty boat slips. Pick one and see what you can do.’ I sent out a questionnaire, expecting three or four people interested. Instead, we got over 18,” said Wechterman.

That double digit interest increased more than three-fold, said Wechterman, who added, “People who were non-boaters now have the opportunity to get involved with boating at a minimal cost.”

Their condo maintenance staff built the racks – a total of 36 slots. Many residents, however, leave their kayaks in their condo units. Those interested in putting their kayaks in a slot pay an initial set-up fee to offset the cost of building the racks and a $10 monthly fee added to their Condo Area Maintenance (CAM). There is a dolly nearby to aide in transporting the kayak to the water.

In addition, he researched and found a local company to provide a dock and ramp with overhead bar for easier kayak entry and exit.

My wife and I go out together paddling around Deerfield Island and up to Hillsboro Canal,” he added, saying they often see animals and marine life, including fish, manatees, birds and iguanas.

His wife, Helene, chimed in, “He had never kayaked before we moved here; but I had.”

When asked about the new dock ramp and racks, she said, “I love it. It is wonderful. We try to go out once a week.”

He hopes the city of Deerfield Beach will put in a kayak dock at Pioneer Park so that kayakers can more easily exit the water there and use restroom facilities, as well as explore nearby restaurants before getting back in the water.

The couple moved from Long Island and were snowbirds for 12 years before moving here full-time two years ago.

My wife bought our condo without me ever seeing it,” said Wechterman. “It is one of the few places you can look out and see something green.”

Deerfield Island Park

That something green is Deerfield Island Park, a 53.3 acre nature-oriented park surrounded by the Intracoastal Waterway and the Hillsboro and Royal Palm canals, and accessible only by boat. For those without kayaks or boats of their own, there is a free boat that leaves from Sullivan Park to the island every hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. The last shuttle leaves at 4:30 p.m. The shuttle is dependent on weather conditions. If the weather looks bad, confirm first by calling Quiet Waters Park at 954-357-5100.

This island is an asset not only to those who live across from it at Hillsboro Cove, but all the residents of Deerfield Beach and beyond.

He said the upcoming Sullivan Park improvements will create a whole day experience. Kids can play in the fountain and then the family can go to Deerfield Island Park to explore the nature trails.

Friends of Deerfield Island Park

Wechterman, who is on the Marine Advisory Board, is the president of Friends of Deerfield Island Park (DIP), a group formed about six months ago to ensure that the island is protected by giving their voices and time to the cause. They not only volunteer, but also raise funds to help create improvements to the island and show others its value. The group is doing outreach to get more individuals and communities involved to increase membership and awareness of the park.

This month, Deerfield Island Park will build and install two kayak and paddleboard racks similar to the ones at Hillsboro Cove with the help of the Friends group and Lowe’s Home Improvement. Visitors will be able to rent kayaks and paddleboards through the Parks Dept.

Butterfly Garden

The Friends of DIP are also helping to create a butterfly garden on Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon. They are seeking 20 volunteers to help plant shrubs and flowers that will attract butterflies. Tools will be provided by Broward County Parks and Recreation.

Those interested in being involved in their group can find out more information at www.friendsofdip.org.

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