debris cleanup in Marathon
The City of Marathon is handling the cleanup on the gulfside of the Grassy Key bike trail. The work began last week and will be finished soon. SARA MATTHIS/Keys Weekly

According to Renato Marrero of the Florida Department of Transportation, the debris hauling contractor will be finished clearing debris out of the right of way by the end of next week.

“We will be done by the middle or end of next week,” Marrero said.

The district maintenance engineer of the FDOT District 6, speaking at the Marathon City Council meeting on Jan. 9, characterized the cleanup as the “fourth pass.” He said there are “two or three” trucks hauling debris and the contractor might add one or two more next week.

While appreciative, the council still had questions.

Marathon Councilman Mark Senmartin wanted to know where the debris is being hauled.

“We are taking it south of the 7 Mile Bridge,” Marrero said, “and storing it there until the site in Homestead reopens.” Marrero did not elaborate on why the debris site in Homestead was temporarily closed.

The FDOT representative also said the crews would be picking up the entire piles, no matter if some debris had slipped onto private property, and that crews are also charged with coming back with employees who can pick up the smaller pieces.

“We might provide some help,” said Public Works Director Carlos Solis. “I want to send out the water trailer to clear off some of the sidewalks that have turned black from the debris.”

For business owners and those in the tourism industry, the removal of debris from the U.S.1 corridor couldn’t come soon enough.

“Obviously, we’re excited. Our highway is the first thing visitors see when they come to the Keys,” said Marathon Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Samess. “We are visually dominant creatures and this final cleanup helps our recovery physically, psychologically and economically.”

One of the larger debris piles was located in front of Bonefish Bay Motel & RV Sites. Owner Mark Fleer said he’s relieved to have the garbage gone.

“I’m happy. It looks like we’re open instead of still under construction,” he said.

The pickup on the gulfside of the bike trail on Grassy Key was conducted by the City of Marathon, not FDOT. Using Grubbs contractors, the city got the green light from the state Department of Environmental Protection to clear the environmentally sensitive lands to remove hurricane debris that washed across the highway from the oceanside. That included the historic, yet tiny, home that floated off its foundation. Lindsey said he initiated the action when FDOT definitively outlined its responsibilities that did not include that area.

“We wanted to target areas that we knew FDOT wouldn’t clear,” said City Manager Chuck Lindsey. “The City of Marathon wants to be done with cleanup at the same time FDOT finishes.”

At the meeting, Marrero said the signal outages in Marathon are a separate and planned update. He had no information on when the traffic lights would be fully functional.

Marathon Councilman Dan Zieg praised city staff. “It’s a remarkable difference. I want to thank our city manager and staff for keeping the pressure on FDOT to come and do their job,” he said.

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