Council hears issues at White Marlin Beach

White Marlin Beach during a busy Memorial Day weekend in 2019. Boats pack this popular spot on the bayside in Lower Matecumbe during weekends and holidays. IAN WILSON/Keys Weekly File Photo

On the bayside in Lower Matecumbe, a sandbar is growing in popularity. As a result, residents living near White Marlin Beach are expressing concern over a situation that’s getting out of hand with drunks hopping off their boats, venturing away from the sandbar and coming onto private property.

It’s also become a safety issue on the water with the number of boats frequenting the sandbar, and jet skis zooming as snorkelers explore the waters.

Before speaking to Islamorada council members on Feb. 13, Port Antigua resident David Petkovich played a 4-minute clip with pictures of numerous boats on the sandbar and trashing from all the activity. Video during the clip showed disorderly people trespassing onto private property — and even becoming physical with property owners.

“When you watch this, if i told you that I had 20 people coming onto my yard in one day at a time, you may not believe this,” he said. “I’ve had people sitting on my stairs at night who come off the boat party.”

Over the past months, petitions have been going around within the community. Petkovich said a majority on White Marlin want a swim zone.

“People who watch this day in and day out, we think if we do it at 300 feet, we think it will curb 60-90% of the problem,” he said. “We really think it’ll break it up. Then what we’ll have there is a tradition in the Keys of people coming with kids and enjoying the sandbar.”

Village Attorney Roget Bryan said meetings with residents, Florida Fish and Wildlife and council were held in 2014 when matters out on the sandbar were getting out of hand. Talks swirled around a swim zone that would essentially ban boats as well as kayaks and paddleboards.

“Our legislation here, if we do something, will target the water side,” he said. “The trespassing issues on land, that’s another problem. There’s multiple tiers to this issue. If council desires to re-explore this area, there’s a couple pieces we should revisit, one being distance and how this thing looks. Three hundred feet is a very enforceable and almost standard for this type of swim zone.”

Councilman Jim Mooney said the ball should get rolling sooner than later on a solution..

“It was bad way back and we’re back to square one again,” he said. “Closing down the Fills pushed some of that activity away; we anticipated that might happen.”

While the village looks to revisit the matter. David Webb, Port Antigua Property Owners Association president, acknowledged that more data’s being gathered to determine the best path forward to a solution.

In other matters, Capt. Matt Bellinger, vice chair of the nearshore water committee, told council there’s a need for slow speed/idle speed only signs near Bud N’ Mary’s and the former Papa Joe’s property. Bellinger says the area’s become a raceway for jet skis.

“It’s nothing outside the norm of what’s being done now with buoy and/or signage of slow speed only,” he said.

Council unanimously approved a resolution encouraging Florida legislators to repeal state preemption of local laws regulating plastics and polystyrene products. Senate Bill 182 and House Bill 6043 look to remove state preemption and passage of these bills would allow the village and other cities and counties to regulate use of plastic shopping bags and other products.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.