In a shocking turn of events, the city of Marathon will redevelop a constantly-flooded portion of Sombrero Boulevard as a “natural, tidal community lagoon” by the end of 2025.

The stunning development follows mounting resident pressure after passage of a non-binding 2016 referendum asking the city to research the feasibility of a community pool. 

According to permitting documents obtained by the Keys Weekly through a public records request (P-24-0401), the often-flooded eastbound lane of Sombrero Boulevard will be permanently closed in favor of the project, which will include dredging the southern boundary of the road to create a swimmable lagoon. The westbound lane, when available due to tidal fluctuation, will continue as a “no-wake zone,” with motorists asked to avoid bathers where possible.

The area’s natural contour will allow for zones of multiple depths, creating areas suitable for children and families, advanced swimmers and wildlife. Moderate rains, which previously drew the ire of area residents with localized flooding, will now provide a freshwater source to refill the lagoon as needed. A pump system, previously touted by the city as the solution to the area’s flooding, will instead be repurposed to power a constant fountain feature in the center of the lagoon.

“This is a win-win for Marathon,” City Manager George Garrett allegedly told a source familiar with the project in the early morning hours at the Brass Monkey. “Our citizens have been asking for a community pool for nearly eight years. This accomplishes that goal with minimal construction costs; it turns a problem into a solution. This is an amenity typically reserved for high-caliber homes and resorts, and it will be provided for free public use.”

In light of the eastbound lane closure, preliminary plans indicate a city pump-out boat will be repurposed as a shuttle to provide hourly trips from Dockside Boot Key Harbor to 53rd Street. Features in other early renderings include a cable winch system attached to overhead power lines for board sports enthusiasts, removable lane lines to support future competitive swim meets, and an additional boat ramp.

“We’ve heard so much talk for months about Marathon’s boat ramp issues,” one city source, who declined to be named, told the Weekly. “This is a forward-thinking solution – eventually, when sea levels rise enough, it will become Marathon’s only oceanside ramp.”

John Schaefer is a longtime Marathon resident who currently owns a condominium across from the project site. “When I first heard rumors about this, I was hesitant,” he said. “But as I sat and thought about it, the value of my property can only go up with two waterfronts instead of one. I just bought a new Subaru a few months ago, but now I’ll be looking to trade that in for a small Zodiac or duck boat.”

Additional uses for the lagoon are being explored by the city and partner agencies, and may include rehabilitation for ailing manatees, alligators and sawfish.

City staff contacted by the Weekly declined to officially comment on the proposed project, which has a projected completion date of April 1, 2025.

Alex Rickert
Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.