Michelle Grau’s Save Our Parks Speech

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Save Our Parks - Michelle Grau

My name is Michelle Grau, and I have been a resident of the city of Boca Raton for over 30 years and I am raising 2 sets of twins. I am here to voice my concerns about the recent threats that our Parks have come under.

The Greater Boca Raton Beach Park Tax District has had 2 proposals in the last year, one to use the conservation area at Sugar Sand Park to build a school and the other to use almost half of Patch Reef Park to build a semi-private tennis academy. Although both proposals have been averted due to citizen push backs, the City council needs to remain vigilant and work closer with the Beach & Parks Tax District and the Board of Education, because this fight to keep our parks is far from over.

On April 16th, while the Beach Park District Commissioners were assuring Residents that the proposal with Nadal was not going forward, a Palm Beach Post article published had totally conflicting opinions from some District members. Because of this, I am urging the City council to remain involved and to ask to the District to notify the City when other proposals are submitted.

With the population of our City increasing exponentially in the last few years, it is imperative now more than ever to keep our parks as an outlet for our children and families to grow, play, socialize, and to escape from the hustle and bustle that we all know too well.
Our Parks have significant deed restrictions and Covenants, which are not boiler plate clauses. They were carefully thought out articles meant to protect their own children and the citizens who came after, from developers and others who wish to profit from these priceless lands. These clauses specifically state that our parks SHALL remain parks for “public” recreational purposes ONLY.

We also need to respect the intention of those who so generously donated these lands for the benefit of the citizens of our city. Our elected officials, who came long before this City Council, meant to protect this land, because they knew that Boca Raton was special. They had a vision. A vision that every other city wished they were founded on, because now, every other city in South Florida wants to be like us.

Over the last several weeks, I along with many other city residents have fought hard to keep Patch Reef Park a public park for the residents of my city. During this time, I discovered that everyone has a different vision of what a park is. In recent months, conservation areas in parks have been referred to even by the Park District officials as “unused land”.

I see a park as wide green open spaces for children to play and moms, like myself, to socialize. Others see that a commercial park such as Mizner Park as a park. Regardless of what your vision is, it is important for us and for our elected officials to remember and respect the vision of the people who came before you, the ones who had the foresight to call our City, The City within a Park.

Thank you.
Michelle Grau

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Michelle was born and raised in Windsor Ontario, Canada and moved to Boca Raton with her family when she was 16. After receiving a B.S. in Accounting at Florida State University and her CPA license, she returned to Boca Raton and started her career in public accounting. At Grau & Associates, she concentrates in the area of governmental and nonprofit auditing. With her husband Tony Grau, she has four children, two sets of twins. When not carpooling around town, she loves boating, scuba diving, and playing tennis and the piano. She is dedicated to environmental projects and preserving our natural landscape here in Boca Raton. Michelle hopes to raise awareness about the threats to our parks and beaches, and to get more people in the community involved.

36 COMMENTS

  1. Outstanding article by Michelle Grau. We need more leaders like her to step forward and make a difference for future generations. Her twins are the future. Lets not let them down.

  2. We are so lucky that Michelle brought this to our attention and we have been able to fight to keep our parks public land for all residents to use. The fight is not over. This just goes to show you so much goes on without residents knowing. We all have to get more involved so our City stays the wonderful City it is. Many politicians have ulterior motives and it is our jobs as citizens to keep them accountable.

    Thank you Michelle for your hard work!!!

  3. As a former Boca Raton resident, I have many fond memories of playing football and softball at Patch Reef Park. Being a local landscaper, I always admired the native flora which can only be found in a few areas in Palm Beach County. The native scrub hammock is also home to our very rarely seen Gopher tortoise. Back in the mid 90’s I recall running across several Gopher burrows. I assume they are still on site unless they have been removed. The Gopher tortoise is a threatened species in addition to being a Keystone species. There habitat is being destroyed by development… We have enough tennis courts and not enough Gophers, please let them have the last few acres of Yamato scrub left in the County.
    Please see attached links/articles.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gopher_tortoise
    https://floridahikes.com/yamato-scrub
    Regards,
    Ed Grau

  4. Thank you, Michelle, for leading the way to protect our parks! When we chose to move to Boca over 30 years ago, the parks were a major consideration. Our parks truly add to the quality of life in our fine city. The Hill family is committed to preserving the parks for generations to come.

  5. Being 19 now I can remember when I first started using the park when I was 6 whether it was from play dates to sporting events that park is what got all of my friends and I together. Even being older I still enjoy the park for parties or playing some pickup games of basketball with old friends. This park is an amazing place that needs to stay around for the new generation of kids to get out and play especially with all of the new technologies that influence these kids. All in all this Park is an essential part of the Boca Raton community with the countless amounts of neighborhoods surrounding the area.

  6. Well written article and many thanks Mrs. Grau for your efforts fighting to keep the vision! As a current resident who was born and raised in Boca and now with children of my own, I have seen a lot of change. It is upsetting that our magnificent parks are under such attack. We must preserve these precious spaces for everyone to enjoy as well as for the generations to come!

  7. Thank you Michelle Grau for bringing this to the attention of Boca Raton residents! Our city parks and green space are so important to the public and leasing this land out for private use is shameful. Let’s keep up the fight to keep our parks for public use!

  8. Michelle…if I still lives there I would help you in this fight. My favorite memories of Boca are bringing my kids to Sugar Sand and Patch Reef.

  9. Michelle: Well written, and thank you. Stay involved. Please rest assured the District seeks to follow resident direction for the community’s greater good. Opportunities must continue to be “vetted and discussed” in a public forum. On behalf of the District, we try to be as transparent as possible, answer questions directly, and ensure future generations that Boca Raton will continue own and maintain beach and parks. Sometimes we could do a better job of communicating, but we usually get to the right decision with help from people like yourself who care. Thank you!

    • Commissioners Craig, thank you for listening to the voices of the Residents of the city of Boca Raton! You truly care about the people in this city and are so responsive to emails, questions and concerns. A true asset to our community!

  10. We need to remember that once our green space is gone, it’s gone. We need to preserve the parts of Boca that makes it the place we call home. Thank you Michelle for speaking out and being the voice for Boca families.

  11. Thank you Michelle for putting into words what so many residents are thinking and helping keep our “officials” accountable. Your dedication is inspiring.

  12. Michelle is not only the voice for the park she is, the voice for the past, present and future not just for Boca Raton but, all of our cities whose elected officials are selling out to money hungry developers. How many cities have we already lost to overdevelopment??? Green space gone, flora and fauna too. Where is the good conscious of our officials??? In their pockets, a true loss on a grand scale. It is an injustice. Thank you Michelle!!! Keep fighting!!! Dakota Indian proverb “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave”

    Kind Regards,
    Gina Diamond

  13. Our original city planners had the foresight to design an environmentally friendly city that I wish our current officials understood. Our beautiful parks/green space are a vital component to the success of our city and a worthy fight ! Thank you, Michele Grau !!!!

  14. I myself have VERY fond memories of growing up with these parks. It absolutely breaks my heart to know their existence is on the line as I had future plans of bringing my children to these parks to have a memorable upbringing in them like I did. I’m so thankful Michelle is being the voice these parks so desperately need, thank you for fighting for our community! You have our full support and gratitude!

  15. Well said Michelle!! We also moved to Boca 25 years ago because of the schools and the green spaces. We are so fortunate to live here and we thank community members like Michelle that care enough to fight to keep our city beautiful.

  16. Patch reef park belongs 100 percent to the people of Boca Raton leave patch reef alone!!!!! Do not make any changes !!! It belongs to the tax payers !!!

  17. Kudos, Michelle for your very focused approach in your attempt to save Patch Reef Park! I applaud your passion in you call to protect one of Boca’s treasured crown jewels which is one of the places that make Boca Raton so special. I have attended many of my grand children’s sports activities at the park providing many happy memories for my family and all residents deserve the same so keep up the good work. You go girl!

  18. I have been a resident of South Florida for over 40 years. There are so few safe places in this area to bring our children and grandchildren to play. Are there not other areas for your projects other than these wonderful parks where we can gather with our families? In these terribly dangerous and uncertain times why would you want to remove such places as these where families continue to gather and enjoy with their children.

  19. Thank you for all of your hard efforts to keep these parks open for families to enjoy. Keep up the good work.

  20. It’s truly commendable that you are a voice for Boca Raton parks but you are also a Palm Beach County resident. While you are trying to protect Boca Raton public land, make sure you look beyond Boca Raton because the Palm Beach County Commissioners are selling the public out when it comes to sustainable development. Do you want reasonably priced produce for your family that is locally grown? Then, start paying attention to the Palm Beach County Commission meetings because they are selling the Ag Reserve out from the residents of Palm Beach County. The farms are being sold and replaced with housing and shopping and we are all losers when that happens. Anything locally grown is going to be fresher than something that is shipped from Chile or some other country. Remember, Yamato Road was once farmland.

    • I agree. Can’t fight this alone. Need teamwork. I was like every other Boca resident… complaining about the irresponsible development and traffic etc but didn’t say much about it until now. ! When they started to eat away at our Parks I was dumbfounded. Who needs to spend all this energy and time protecting an asset we all took for granted. !

  21. Well said Janet and Michelle, We have been in town since the late 50’s when my Grandparents purchased two of the forty homes used for the army officers. Boca has not been changed for the better. The parks, the high rises, the schools. The Boca council for the last 25 years has done a terrible job preserving what was a great city.There are more problems today than solutions on the table. There should be a halt to all new development
    until schools are adequately filled. We still can’t envision where Boca will be when everything approved will be completed.I love this forum, we need to take our city back. Send all developers requests to Brevard County.

    • Agree. We have a serious problem in our city with overdevelopment. Our schools are going to be exploding with kids, not to mention traffic. I thought our parks we a repite from all this, but apparently not. I never thought in all my life that I would be fighting to preserve our parks. I took that for granted.

  22. Michelle, what powerful words and leadership you have shown in making the community aware our precious parks and green spaces are under direct attack. Thank you for your time, research, energy, initiative, and courage, in organizing a public outcry and resistance against the theft of our public parks. A shout out to the Greater Boca Raton Beach Park Tax District Commissioners…Our parks are not for sale or lease.

    • So sad that i even had to write an article like this ! It never occurred to me that our parks would be threated by development. Good grief

  23. Michelle, many thanks to you. I agree that the beaches, parks and conservation areas here in Boca Raton are an irreplaceable treasure. The legacy left by those who donated the land should be respected. As you write: “We also need to respect the intention of those who so generously donated these lands for the benefit of the citizens of our city.” As those before me have commented, my family chose to live in Boca Raton because of the beautiful parks, as well as the stretch of protected tropical and temperate forest along the barrier island between the Intracoastal Waterway and the beaches. Just visited Gumbo Limbo today with my son, who now lives in California. He wanted to share with his girlfriend the sea turtle preservation programs we embrace here in Boca Raton!

  24. What Michelle has done is truly remarkable. She has awaken a long sleeping tiger which is boca residents. For too long residents have taken for granted our green space. Downtown will soon be paved over completely . Outside developers will not stop until boca looks like Ft Lauderdale. The fight is not over. Thank you Michelle.

  25. Thanks so much for speaking out Michelle! When you told me what was happening right under our noses, I couldn’t believe it! Planning to attend these meetings when I can to support the efforts. Was especially upset to read the Palm Beach Post article about the Nadal Dev. “off the table for now” that was published electronically at the exact same time when the Beach & Park District was saying and implying that it was not going to be considered at all at the public meeting that we attended. I do not trust the District commissioners and the unelected Exec Director/Lawyer/Project Manager to act in our best interest and keep our parks green.

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