As part of the City’s 10th Anniversary Celebration, Larry Shaffer’s online Marathon Journal recently poised a series of questions to sitting and former City Council members. Part 1 was last week’s column; Part 2 starts now. To see other responses from sitting and former Council members, visit www.marathonjournal.us.
Larry’s third question was about my vision for Marathon’s future, hence the name of this week’s column. Being an optimist, I see a bright future for Marathon and the Middle Keys. Like one of those Star Trek alternate future episodes, or what happened in the Back to the Future movies, our tomorrows totally depend upon the actions we take today.
In the very near future, about two years out, it will become so blatantly obvious that Marathon did the right thing by moving forward on our wastewater and stormwater projects. As other communities in the Keys wonder what’s going to happen and how they’re going to pay for it, we’ll be driving on newly paved streets that control stormwater runoff, and we won’t be flushing our toilets into the near shore waters. As our canals begin to get cleaner and clearer, the outlook for other areas will become muddier as the state, the village, and the county will go round and round trying to work out solutions that no one will like. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth… but not in Marathon, as our major infrastructure projects will be done. This should help make Marathon more attractive to both real estate buyers (do you want to buy here where the sewers are done, or buy somewhere else where you still have to pay an unknown high-dollar amount?) AND eco-tourists who want to go to communities that really are environmentally conscious.
I commend Council Member Dick Ramsay for his call to review all existing development agreements. To ensure a bright economic future, we need our resorts and lodging establishments online and operational. Faro Blanco Oceanside and Bayside (and their marinas) need to be redeveloped and open. So does the old Howard Johnson’s/Ramada Inn/Key Colony Bay project. And we need to get our Holiday Inn back in express fashion. The addition of the Hampton Inn in Old Town will continue the revitalization of our community. And – seriously – we need to get over the idea that adding a foot or two to building height in order to make an attractive roofline is a bad thing. I’d rather see attractive tin roof gables as opposed to another damn flat roof building that our town has too many of already.
Our economy needs these projects completed because it’s hard for people to visit our corner of Paradise without adequate quality lodging at different economic levels. It’s hard for our workforce to work if the jobs aren’t here. It’s difficult for our local businesses to survive without a customer base we used to take for granted.
Let’s look at the impact of just one of these projects: Faro Blanco Oceanside. This project consists of an existing concrete dock marina in Boot Key Harbor that doesn’t need to be leveled and rebuilt – it’s already there. With some simple renovations of the slips and the old Upper Deck at the end of the dock, this marina could be hosting a large number of temporary and long-term visitors. Imagine the slip rent to be collected. Imagine the jobs that would be created. Imagine the sales and tourist taxes that would benefit our community. Imagine those slips being used by sailors as their last refuel/replenish stop on the way to an open Cuba. Imagine the economic impact on our fuel docks, provision stores, and our marine industry as a whole. And imagine all that money circulating throughout Marathon, being used to pay rents and mortgages, patronizing our restaurants and nightspots, and being spent in our local merchants’ establishments. Now imagine a town where all our shuttered and demolished resorts were back online and open. We still have the best fishing, diving, and tropical winters anywhere. Let’s give our visitors some real lodging choices, and let them come down and fall in love with the place same as we did.
Just think – if we restore the lodging we used to have, we stand a much better chance of regaining something else we used to have: commercial air service. Our future really does depend on what we do today. Let’s not lose sight of our overall goals as we get caught up in the day-to-day struggle.
And don’t forget the City’s 10th Anniversary Party at Marathon Community Park TODAY, Saturday, November 21. There’s a wonderful lineup of events and fun stuff. We’ll see you there!