FOUNDERS PARK: CONCERNS
Founder’s Park, the Gem of Islamorada, is the coveted site of many events for children, family and adults, including evening concerts, benefits and the like. Over the years, people pressure has increased in regard to use of the park for venues besides the passive nature of the park for which it was created for local citizenry: dog park, tennis courts, beach, pool, walking zones, children’s sports zones, marina, local classes offered by the park, and Village meetings. Due to this, the Council in 2007 created a resolution to approve an Islamorada Village Parks Special Events Policy. See document entitled COUNCIL COMMUNICATION 13 Dec. 2007 Approving Special Events Policy.
1. The Parks and Recreation Events Policy was initiated by Village Council in December 2007. Since that time, the population has grown, requests or demand for events have grown, traffic in the Keys has grown, Air B & B vacation rental visitors and daily visitors to the Keys have grown. So, there are many pressure factors on U.S. 1 now that did not exist when the Park was “shiny and new” and not utilized as much for musical events, and other non-profit causes that draw crowds.
2. The Parks and Rec Committee meets quarterly, although the number of events impacting the park, the road, and the Upper Keys has become more extensive and demanding on local residents to get around and co-exist efficiently adjacent to and in balance with the Village Mission: the quiet enjoyment of our homes.
3. Several neighborhoods adjacent to the Park are impacted by noise levels, traffic, and extreme back-logged U.S. 1 congestion of visitors to events: Treasure Harbor, Coral Road, East Ridge Road, Executive Bay, Plantation Lake Estates, Gimpy Gulch, and the new up and coming oceanside development of 103 units within a block of Founder’s Park under development since Hurricane Irma.
4. The “people pressure” impacts on the Park, around the park neighborhoods, on the staff, and on local entities responsible to supervise (Sheriff’s Dept., Fire Dept., etc.) and U.S. 1 have expanded.
5. The $4.68 million dollar proposed pedestrian overpass at the entrance to Founder’s Park (which FDOT said was not substantiated to be built even at the $1.2 million initial price estimate), is at last resolved and not moving forward at this time due to community outrage and objection. Village Staff and prior council and present Acting Manager continued to push the project through without fully disclosing all the related documents and e-mails regarding the discussion, as provided by Councilman Henry Rosenthal at the Dec. 17, 2020 council meeting, which then was pushed to a January date or a “Special Call” meeting as requested by many citizens. Crossing U.S. 1 could continue as an issue for large events.
6. It is not well established how events are evaluated, considered to be repeated, dropped, or scaled-down based on the events unfolding in real time. What about safety, sheriff reports, incidents, set up and break down, i.e. preserving the park’s pristine grounds, contractual fulfillment, proceeds, and financial accountability? It does not appear that the Parks and Rec Citizens Advisory Committee is pro-actively “asked” or consulted prior to events, or involved in making decisions evaluating or considering events.
7. The noise level created by a recent concert affected area residents because large, elevated commercial stages were brought in close to US 1 and impacted neighborhoods. Park events were intended to use the amphitheater stage near Florida Bay which projects sounds away from nearby neighborhoods and sends “noise levels” away from areas where Islamorada citizens reside year-round.
8. With the onset of the food truck business, how is catering selected and managed, with regard to causes selected? Which non-profits or beneficiaries are selected and why, and is park staff following its policy of Keys' causes only? Recently, an event did not adhere to these guidelines.
9. In terms of the noise from amplified events, sometimes contractual hours are not strictly followed, impacting weekend quiet for neighbors, many of whom bought homes in the area prior to the park being created.
10. The policy states adding additional events would exceed staff capacity to handle events, but it appears events have gotten bigger and more crowded.
11. Concern is not about the Rotary Nautical Flea Market, held once a year, and very well-managed, although we assume the Rotary is assessing how many people and how parking pressure near neighborhoods factor in future flea markets. Due to Covid-19, the local Rotarians had proposed scaling down the number of vendors in 2021.
12. The Coral Shores High School parking lot should continue to be utilized as a parking solution for large events and should include free bussing of participants to and from park events.