Delray Beach fireworks show in limbo

By Al Pefley  email

DELRAY BEACH, FL (WFLX) - What's the Fourth of July without fireworks? Some local cities, including Delray Beach, may soon find out.

The Coast Guard may hold up the permits for fireworks shot from off-shore barges which are about 500 to 1,000 feet from the beach.

Delray usually has a barge on the Fourth of July where they shoot fireworks for their big July Fourth Fireworks Spectacular. But, this year, the fireworks show could fizzle out. "I like the fireworks show every year. I come here every year and watch, so I wouldn't be a big fan of not having it," said Taylor Tilles of Delray Beach.

This year, Delray Beach and several coastal cities in Broward may not have fireworks shows or will have to find another place to shoot them off.

That's because the Coast Guard is concerned about endangered Elkhorn and Staghorn Coral and nesting sea turtles.

"I think we really need to think about the wildlife," said Rona Wolfe, a beach goer from Wellington who often visits Delray Beach.

The Coast Guard says the flashes of bright light may spook sea turtles, scaring them away when they're coming ashore to nest. And, they say, fireworks, barges or recreational boaters, who come to watch, could drop their anchors and harm the delicate coral reefs offshore.

"I agree with the Coast Guard. I think they will suffer, and, I think, it's more important to cancel the fireworks for one day," said Lisa Liebman, another beach goer.

The annual Fourth of July celebration and fireworks draw at least 50,000 people to downtown Delray Beach.

Merchants on Atlantic Avenue say losing the fireworks would be devastating.

"We would definitely lose business because people wouldn't come downtown. They would go elsewhere to see fireworks," said Jon Parsons, an employee at Kilwin's Chocolates & Ice Cream.

He says without fireworks on the 4th customers will be scarce. "It's an all day thing for 4th of July here from open to close, and that's one of our busier days. So, you know, it would definitely hurt us."

One city leader hopes they can work something out. "We have a lot of spirit here in Delray Beach, and, I think, we need to celebrate the birth of our country," said  Marjorie Ferrer, Delray Beach Downtown Marketing Cooperative executive director.

The city is waiting on a definite answer from the Coast Guard about whether they can go ahead with the fireworks show off-shore.

They say they could also launch fireworks from the city tennis center, several blocks inland from the beach, but they'd have to use smaller fireworks shells, and the show might not be quite as big.

The city believes the fireworks barge won't damage coral reefs because it does not drop anchor. Besides that, the barge would only be about 1,000 feet from shore while the coral reef is much further out - about 3,600 feet from the beach.