Turn around, Village Council!
Until 12 years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find a lovelier section of the Overseas Highway than the span of roadway between Upper and Lower Matecumbe – what we locals call the Fills.
This two-and-a-half-mile stretch is a visual and environmental gem. Instead of being protected, it has been allowed to become a popular outdoor play area for day trippers from all over South Florida and most Councilmen are willing to let it continue under the guise of “less is more.”
Instead of solving the problem, they are merely rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. And spending lots of tax dollars while they do it!
They’re going the wrong way.
After wasting more than $55,000 this year with a consultant’s plan to turn the Fills into a real-deal destination spot, complete with bbq areas and pavilions, the public roared back: “Not no, but heck no!”
So, the Council sent the consultants back to the drawing board.
Today, a new plan is brewing that goes against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of villagers, yet again. It would allow for more than 40 improved parking spaces, turning lanes, new kayak launches, a new boat launch, relocation of roughly four miles of the Heritage Trail (walking and biking path), and metal guardrails running the entire span of remaining roadway “to assure drivers recognize there is no parking.”
Year after year the crowds and pickup trucks have grown, especially on summer weekends, spending the entire day, with no restroom facilities, blaring music, tearing up the seagrass beds and mangroves – it is a Marine Sanctuary for goodness sake! – and leaving their beer bottles, coke cans, chip bags, you name it, behind when they left.
By making these improvements, allowing for folks to gather, this Council is in essence replacing one nuisance with another nuisance. Mind you, all this will also require staff to oversee the time limited parking, no swimming, the no pooping in the mangroves rules, and cleaning up the garbage left behind.
These are the exact same people who say they don’t have enough manpower to merely enforce the NO PARKING signs. A few well-placed tow trucks wouldn’t hurt.
Adding insult to injury.
At the last Council meeting, several councilmen wrongly, yet adamantly, insisted that FDOT required the guardrails regardless of what the Village ended up deciding. When knowledgeable members of the public pushed back at the assertions, the councilmen were unpersuaded.
Following the meeting, members of the Islamorada Community Alliance got the facts provided to the Village, that came from the regional director of FDOT and head engineer.
As was thought, FDOT would not require the installation of ugly and expensive guardrails if no improvements were made to the stretch. See the attached regulations.
Guardrails are used when there is a “Drop-off Hazard,” generally a drop off of 6 feet or more. Except at the entrance to the bridges (where there are already guardrails) the Fills are almost completely flat to the mangroves near the waterline.
Listen to Henry and your constituents.
Vice Mayor Rosenthal has insisted from the beginning that the “no parking” signs and enforcement of the signs would be adequate. He wanted to try just getting rid of 1,000 ugly orange cones and forget unsightly and costly guardrails. His plan would cost taxpayers virtually zero tax dollars!
Can we get rid of the cones, tents, and canopies, end the littering and trampling of our precious environmental resources? Just provide a couple of pull-offs (one in each direction) with short term parking for folks to make a quick stop, take in the view and snap a few photos?
Visitors welcome, but not on the side of the road.
The Village of Islamorada has more than a half dozen public parks that are open to everyone regardless of whether they live in Islamorada. There are also four Florida State Parks in Islamorada. The residents and taxpayers have done their part. It is past time for the Village Council to do theirs.