Yes, you’re reading this right, and no, you don’t have to rub your eyes: construction at Rowell’s Waterfront Park is beginning in the next month, according to Kevin Wilson, assistant administrator for Monroe County. Wilson is the supervisor of planning and execution for all county capital construction.
“We’re happy to be getting started and keep adding value to the community,” Wilson told Keys Weekly.
He detailed the first phase of the construction that will take place within a few weeks in Key Largo’s eight-acre park at MM104.5, bayside: restrooms at the southwestern corner, a walking path around the north end, a parking lot and a relocation of the entrance so it aligns with the cut in the highway’s median.
Key West’s Charley Toppino & Sons, who also worked on the Truman Waterfront Park project in Key West, will be handling the project. Phase One will cost $1.4 million, $500,000 from the Tourist Development Council and $900,000 from the county.
“The county is actively seeking grant money for future phases of the project,” said Wilson, who said the master plan for the park, unveiled in June 2019, is still a goal. It includes a dog park, a splash pad for children, a nautical-themed playground, a swimming area, a snorkeling area with 6-foot depth, a shaded nature path, non-motorized boat access and docking, an “art in public places” backdrop to buffer Tamarind channel and plant-intense landscaping buffers on north and south perimeters. The design included suggestions from residents.
The master plan also shows a park pay station/pay booth to charge nonresidents. But the park will remain free to locals. However, Wilson noted that a tendency with construction phases is that design ideas change.
“Every time a couple years pass, people rethink what they want,” he said.
The Board of County Commissioners bought Rowell’s Marina in December 2013 with the intention of making it into a public park. Littlejohn Engineering Associates began the design phase in December 2016.
Wilson said the Rowell’s Waterfront Park project only hit delays of a month or two once the master plan was unveiled in 2019.
“There were six or eight months of design, a couple of months for permitting and a couple months for the bids contract. Then there was a bid challenge,” he said.
Wilson is not sure of the schedule of the first phase of construction. “That’s up to the contractor. But we do want to maximize keeping the park open to the public,” he said.