For years and years now, the problems at the area of our community known as the Fills near Mile Markers 77-79 have continued to get dramatically worse. This week, the issues reached a point where there is perhaps just one solution – a total shut down.
We have been attracting some of the very worst types of people to our Village — often coming to spend the day at the Fills. Local residents have been begging for help for years.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife is investigating a horrific incident that happened earlier this month and are looking for these two individuals:
These are the suspects.
This is the mutilation that occurred at the Fills. And remember the Brown Pelican is protected under the Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule and the US Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
This from social media, an unfathomable occurrence on March 8 2021:
Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center
We need YOUR HELP in finding two male suspects connected to the most heinous animal cruelty case we have ever seen (photo above shows the suspects).
This Pelican was stabbed repeatedly and with great force with a bladed object (likely a knife). His glottis/trachea was slit in two place; he had three puncture wounds penetrating his skull, one deep wound through the roof of his mouth into his nasal cavity, and multiple lacerations in his pouch and beak. The flesh of his pouch was then draped over his head like a hood. This pelican had to be euthanized.
Call 888-404-3922 with any information related to the men in the photo. You may remain anonymous and there is a cash reward for information leading to the capture of those responsible.
Let’s never let this happen in our community ever again.
Yes, we have so many responsible visitors. Let’s not lose our reputation and our quality tourism because of the bad ones.
But, until we can assure that those visiting the Fill know how to behave and we have enforcement mechanisms that can control criminal behavior, the immediate action should be to discontinue providing a park for them to destroy, a place to damage our environment and mutilate our wildlife.
Cheryl and Mike Meads on behalf of the of the Islamorada Community Alliance are going to donate $5,000 toward the reward for information leading to the capture of the criminals who committed this atrocity. If you would like to add to the reward, please hit the DONATE button at the top of this page on our website or send a check to:
Islamorada Community Alliance
P.O. Box 1507
Tavernier, FL 33070
And now – back to a council decision at the Fills – understanding why this area is so important to the residents of our community.
At the Thursday, March 18, 2021 meeting, the Council voted to approve a company to do a master plan for improvements at the Fill that would make it a public park.
A lease with FDOT was approved by Council in June 2020 and signed August 4, 2020, made retroactive to September 11, 2019. Click here to read the lease.
A list of features for the Fills park was created by staff and last discussed at a public meeting by the prior council in July 2020 with no vote taken to approve the concept at that time. An RFP was put out in January, 2021, six months later, with no discussion after the November election to get consensus from the current council. Those companies bidding were asked to provide a price based on creating an engineered plan for these 14 park features, though they were never formally approved at a public meeting:
1. Installing a barrier along US-1 (12’ shoulder)
2. Installing access gates to “No Parking” areas
3. Information signs with rules
4. Paid Parking (app-based parking system)
5. Asphalt parking spaces with striping and signs
6. Make the Indian Key boat ramp area a “No Swimming Zone”
7. Project for a permanent boat ramp with launching dock (grant funded)
8. Bathroom facilities at each parking location
9. Install charcoal grills at populated areas (excluding Indian Key boat ramp)
10. Install additional landscaping
11. Vista/viewing lookout on the shoreline
12. Pedestrian underpasses under the bridges
13. Move informational sign at Indian Key Fill boat ramp
14. Access gate at boat ramp (limit use from sunrise to sunset)
The staff selection committee recommended CPH with a bid of $55,000 for this scope of work. The council questioned whether this list of features is appropriate. The staff indicated that the critical features on the list are (1.) The barrier along the highway and (5) asphalt parking areas. The other items could be approved or ignored later. Even if the council approved the list, the staff confirmed the work would probably not start for another year. And after much imploring by the staff, the council agreed to proceed with the $55,000 master plan, based on significant misinformation.
At the Council Meeting:
The agenda item for the Fills was heard five hours into the meeting, the council members were exhausted and many members of the public seemed to have left the Zoom room.
Public comment was heard after the council voted to approve the selection of the company to do the master plan.
There was one speaker heard (and one that was cut off) before public comment was closed:
Sue Miller, Lower Matecumbe Key, said:
“Do you all remember when the “Fill” was the most beautiful section on the Overseas Highway?
You are being asked to approve the selection of a company to do a $55,000 Master Plan based on a ridiculous 14 item wish list.
The only feature needed is probably the boat ramp. And there is already a perfectly acceptable plan for that engineered by FDOT in 2014.
The Fill has become a nuisance in our community, continually trashed by hordes of visitors spending the day, and now taxpayers are expected to turn this into a public park for these same visitors?
I read the FDOT lease – and found no master plan requirement – it only says “No structures or improvements without prior written approval” And the lease also says that the structures or improvements must be removed by the Village at the end of the lease.
I don’t think we need all these improvements. Just enforcement.
FDOT has completed a major project to deal with the erosion on the Fill. Weekend visitors will be crawling over boulders now to get to the water’s edge in many locations – seems like a real liability for the Village.
We have ugly trash barrels everywhere yet so many guests can’t walk 15 feet to use them.
The stretch of two lane highway with no turning lanes, has been the site of horrific and sometimes deadly accidents.
The penalty for parking illegally is now $200 so surely a no parking sign will work just as well as an unsightly and expensive barrier to keep folks from parking in the wrong place. Barbeque grills – who cleans those?
Restrooms at 7 marked parking areas? Will they be the ugly porta potties contaminating our beautiful scenic vistas? Or 7 expensive restrooms built to hurricane standards with wastewater connections using local tax dollars?
Can’t we provide short term parking and invite guests and locals to pull over for a few minutes to enjoy the view of ocean or bay, sunrise or sunset, without providing a public park for all day partying?
The current budget through September has $350,000 allocated to capital improvements at the Fills. That will be just the beginning.
The Fill was once the most beautiful stretch of highway in the Keys. Now it is lined with ugly orange cones, trash barrels, and porta potties.
Let’s keep the fill what it should be – a causeway to connect Upper and Lower Matecumbe – a gorgeous scenic drive, not a mistreated public park.
Go to www.Islamorada.org to read more. Join in the effort to make Islamorada the best it can be.
Another caller wanted to speak during public comment, but the village clerk said his voice could not be heard and ended the call. Here is John Kocol’s statement:
“I don’t think there has not been enough recent public discussion and input on improving the Fills. To avoid another pedestrian bridge fiasco, the Council might consider getting public input. If you are in a time crunch, I suggest that you request an extension from FDOT and hold a public workshop to get public input before spending any money to create a master plan for a park that the public may not want.
Personally, I am against spending any taxpayer dollars on this. I don’t think the residents of Islamorada should be asked to underwrite the tourist experience of day trippers or any other tourists. We all know this area is riddled with issues that negatively impact the ecosystem, traffic and ultimately our quality of life. Are we again going to ignore the impact of the added traffic, an improvement to this site will generate? The level of service on U.S. Highway 1 in Islamorada and Monroe County rates a D [on a five-letter scale in which A is the best.] If we follow our own laws, we shouldn’t even consider this.
If it is true that FDOT has not funded any of the four possible improvement options showcased in the 2014 Atkins [traffic] study, than go back to FDOT and the TDC and ask for funding. My preference is for concept 1 to maximize parking. Improve that area only for local use and be done with it. Otherwise, terminate the lease and let FDOT have it back and let them pay to improve and maintain the area.
Thanks for listening.