Founder's Park

Residents of Tavernier and Key Largo may soon be able to use Islamorada’s Founders Park for free.

During the Jan. 18 Village Council meeting, councilman Mike Forster proposed the idea, saying it was the “neighborly” thing to do. Forster suggested a 90-day period that would allow Monroe County residents with driver’s licenses that have zip code 33070 to enter for free.

The period would not only allow residents to enter, but organized groups and athletics to share the fields as well. The move is not expected to add staffing and will not be permanent.

Non-residents currently pay $8 daily ($5 for youths 3-17 and seniors) to use the park.

Forster said the 90 days would allow village staff to see what the impact, if any, would be. The decision gives a place for local kids and families that already make up “the fabric of our community” to go, he said. Forster also said that if after 90 days, Harry Harris Park and Rowell’s Waterfront Park are still not ready for public use, an extension may also be considered. Both Key Largo parks are currently being used to stage marine debris and sunken vessels removed from nearshore waters.

Mayor Chris Sante also proposed the park allow active members of the military to enter for free. During public comment, an Islamorada resident suggested adding disabled veterans, which the mayor also backed.

“I think it was a good idea for the council to recommend the Parks and Recreation Citizens Advisory Committee to look at it. It was established in the beginning of the park system to play a major role in planning programs and serves as a voice for the public. It gives citizens an opportunity to come and voice their recommendations to the committee,” said Founders Park Director Maria Bagiotti.

Bagiotti says in practice the move is manageable to enforce, especially for only three months.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee will consider the proposal on Tuesday, Jan. 30. Once the advisory committee has weighed in, Carolyn Wightman, its chair, will present the committee’s recommendation to the council at its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 1.

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