City officials negotiate Admiral’s Cut access

Plans will soon be underway to redesign Bayview Park in the heart of Key West. A targeted completion date is in 2022.

After years of back-and-forth negotiations and negative responses, city officials have expressed renewed confidence that they can arrange public access to Admiral’s Cut, the small stretch of water the size of a large boat slip that separates the city-owned Truman Waterfront from the privately owned Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina.

That slice of water is the only obstacle impeding pedestrian access around much of the downtown waterfront area. Access across Admiral’s Cut would allow the public to walk from Truman Waterfront to the shops along Margaritaville Resort’s harborfront pier and beyond that to the city’s Mallory Square.

“We have received an initial proposal from the Tannex Corporation, also known as the Walsh family, who owns the Margaritaville Resort and Admiral’s Cut,” City Manager Greg Veliz told the city commissioners on March 3. “It’s very, very early in the negotiations, but we have received an initial offer that’s not outlandish, so (City Attorney) Shawn Smith and I will arrange a meeting to pursue these negotiations and hopefully turn that into something we’ve all wanted for several years.”

The commissioners thanked Veliz for his pursuit of the waterfront access, and Commissioner Jimmy Weekley reminded the commission of a presentation they had heard several years ago from a young woman who envisioned what she called “The Rainbow Bridge” over Admiral’s Cut.

Weekley asked the city clerk to dig up that presentation to consider once negotiations with the resort owners have been finalized.

Also at the March 3 commission meeting, Veliz assured the commissioners that he has been meeting with the city’s fire and rescue officials, who have plans in place to address any potential coronavirus cases in the city.

“If rescue teams arrive on scene of a suspected coronavirus case, they wear additional protective gear and have a list of questions they ask the patient about their symptoms and places they’ve recently visited to assess the risk level to see if they meet the high-risk criteria,” Veliz said, adding that he had also been in touch with officials at Lower Keys Medical Center, who said they, too, have protocols in place for the virus.

Commissioners also heard a report from Tiffany Pellicier of Key West’s new Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, which Commissioner Sam Kaufman launched a year or so ago to obtain public input and recommendations pertaining to the city’s public parks and recreation spaces.

The advisory board is assembling its budget requests and prioritizing projects for the coming budget cycle. The board is in the early stages of redesigning Bayview Park. Once it obtains sufficient public input, it will contract with a professional design company to finalize plans with a targeted completion in 2022, Pellicier said.

But a few other improvements are already in the works and are expected to be finished between April and July.

The George Mira Field along Flagler Avenue will be turfed and lined for football and
lacrosse in the coming month or so.

The George Mira Field along Flagler Avenue “will be turfed and lined for football and lacrosse,” Pellicier told the commissioners. “So that will become a true multi-use field, and should be completed in April of this year.”

In addition, once the Mira field is finished, the same crews will move on to the Rosa Hernandez Softball Field at the corner of Kennedy and Northside drives.

That field, as well, will be turfed, hopefully by July, Pellicier said.

Additional improvements are being considered for the HAWK Missile site off Flagler Avenue, with J.W. Parks spearheading the plans for upgrades in that area, she said.

The Rosa Hernandez Girls’ Softball Field at Kennedy and Northside Drive is slated to be returfed this summer. CITY OF KEY WEST/Contributed

“One thing that’s very important to me, as a registered nurse, is shade at these park and recreation facilities,” Pellicier said. “The rate at which kids are being diagnosed with various types of skin cancer is on the rise, and we want to take that into serious consideration when designing these projects and improvements.”

The commissioners thanked Pellicier for her presentation and commended the active and involved board members who have built up some momentum as a new board in preparing recommendations and budget requests for the city.

“Your board is very strong and your members are very active,” Kaufman commended Pellicier. “They truly know what is needed in these areas, so I want to encourage you to bring us your recommendations. We want to hear what your board’s priorities are, such as for the HAWK Missile SIte and Bayview Park and with regard to shade structures.”

Pellicier acknowledged the progress the new board has made despite many of the involved organizations, such as youth sports leagues, being “mom-and-pop organizations” who aren’t overly familiar with budget cycles.

She also emphasized that the board plans to work with the city’s Art in Public Places board to ensure public art projects at each facility.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.