A boat ramp visitors and locals once used at the Fills is still closed due to damage sustained earlier in the year. Repair work could last through the end of the year before reopening to boaters.

With allotted parking and stiff fines, the scenes of cars packing onto every inch of open space, the crowds of people packing along the shoreline and chaos are no longer witnessed at the Fills. At Indian Key boat ramp, activity at the boat launch came to halt in February when a contractor placed equipment into the water and disturbed the hard pack surface at the entrance. 

An evaluation by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection found that restoration must be complete before the area reopens to the public. 

“The restoration is the responsibility of the contractor that created the damage,” reads a village statement. “The contractor is working with an environmental consulting group to create the necessary restoration plan.”

The plan now requires approval and permitting from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and will also require permitting with the Army Corps of Engineers and authorization through the National Marine Sanctuary. 

Permitting and restoration work will take months to complete — possibly lasting until the end of the year. The ramp and parking area remain closed to the public until the restoration project is completed.

As for management of the Fills, the three small islands connecting Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys, council members selected CPH Inc. as consultants earlier in the year to develop a master plan. While authorized to control parking and access, the village is also required to submit a management plan for each agency’s approval. A request for proposals for an engineering firm went out in January and produced three responses. 

An evaluation committee composed of the acting village manager, public works director, assistant to public works director and environmental resources manager recommended CPH Inc. at a cost proposal of $55,000. 

The village is subleasing the property from the Florida Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection. Any improvements to the area would need to receive FDOT approval before the village could move forward with an engineered project.

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Jim McCarthy believes in community reporting, giving back and life on the water. A workout fanatic, diver and a bogey-golfer, Jim loves chicken wings, Marvel movies and sports.