Dennis P. Koehler Preserve & Babbling Brook

SCOPE: 6.85 acre retention lake for additional stormwater storage located in North Westgate Estates neighborhood of CRA district.


  • Palm Beach County BCC & Administration
  • Palm Beach County District 2
  • Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization (OCR CCRT)
  • Lake Worth Lagoon
  • Chain of Lakes
  • Westgate CRA 

COST: Approx. $4.5 million

COMPLETION: All phases of the project were completed by 2012

This storm water retention project combined infrastructure improvements with public art, placemaking, and environmental stewardship demonstrating how flood mitigation can be seen in a multi-dimensional context. Using low impact development (LID) practices and artful interpretation, this project has become an amenity to the community, and a redevelopment tool that has furthered the elimination of slum and blight in the Westgate area. The Preserve is now a designated passive park, with parking available to users through an agreement with an adjacent property owner.

The project began in 2008 with the excavation of approximately 6.85 acres for additional storm water storage capacity for the area. The first phase of the three-phase project was the expansion and conversion of an existing dry detention area into a wet retention pond.  The size and depth of an existing dry detention area was enlarged to increase treatment volume and reduce the grade of the side slopes to allow for the construction of a functional and aesthetic littoral grassy area around the edge of the pond. To amass the land necessary for the wet retention pond conversion, 11 derelict structures were acquired by the CRA for a cost of $2 million. Many of the lots had become garbage dumping grounds, were unkempt, and attracted the homeless and drug abusers. The CRA coordinated with property owners for relocation, resulting in no displacement.

The second phase of the project involved conveying collected storm water runoff through a series of constructed culverts and inlets throughout the area. The storm water collected by the lake discharges to the West Palm Beach Canal (known as the C-51 Canal). The Canal was originally dug to drain the Everglades and lower Lake Okeechobee for agricultural purposes. It remains an important part of Central and South Florida’s flood control system today but the poor quality of discharged water into the Lake Worth Lagoon has severely impaired the productiveness and biodiversity of the estuary.

Historical discharge into the Lake Worth Lagoon resulted in the accumulation of pollutants and sediments which interferes with the marine biological community. Storm water storage and pretreatment through this project has regional financial and ecological impacts by improving the water quality for the communities downstream and the Lake Worth Lagoon. These improvements are anticipated to reduce pollutant loadings to the Intracoastal Waterway and the Lake Worth Lagoon.

The third phase of the project incorporates an EcoArt element to assist with the pretreatment of water and bring environmental awareness to the public.  Since flooding has long been problematic for the CRA area, the public art component provides a way to engage and help the community take ownership of the lake.  Based on the existing conveyance system, runoff from the entire drainage sub-basin could be collected during small storm events and treated.  The CRA’s innovative approach to flood mitigation utilizes environmental funds to foster the community’s ecological awareness. The project also serves to eliminate blight in this area of north Westgate; this project demonstrates that flood mitigation can become a tool for redevelopment. The Dennis P. Koehler Preserve, named for one of the original CRA Board members who was passionate about the work of the CRA, and the Babbling Brook, are a great source of pride for the CRA as well as residents of the community. It has gained status as a Florida Audubon Urban Oasis, and has served educational purposes through a mentoring partnership with Oxbridge Academy. The project received funding from the CDBG, Disaster Recovery Initiative (DRI), FEMA (Hazard Mitigation Grant Program), Lake Worth Lagoon Partnership Grant, Chain of Lakes, PBC Office of Community Revitalization, BCC District 2 Funds, and CRA TIF. The total project cost was approximately $4.5 million.  All phases of the project were completed in 2012.

rendering of the lake and brook project
rendering of aerial view
lake preserve image
image of brook