A sublease agreement is in place between the village of Islamorada and Florida Department of Transportation at the popular day-trip destination known as the Fills. With the village now in control of the area, local officials are preparing to submit a master plan for the three small islands connecting Lower Matecumbe and Upper Matecumbe Keys.
During village council’s July 30 meeting, Public Works Director A.J. Engelmeyer discussed a list of items the village will look to include in its plan to FDOT. In a bid to control parking and provide more safety to bikers and pedestrians, the village will include plans to install barriers along the Fills, which spans from MM 77.5 to 79.8.
Village council received three potential options for fencing that included cable, timber with rope and guardrail. Engelmeyer told council members that a cable barrier would be a less intrusive and visible option. It would also be less expensive than other options with an estimated cost around $322,000.
Other notable items the village will look to include in its wish list to the state are public bathroom facilities for each parking location, a permanent boat ramp and a proposed no-swim zone in the launch area to prevent potential accidents. Vista lookouts and docks to peer out at the water will also be included in the plan for FDOT’s consideration.
“With this list, we’re going ahead and engineering on paper a master plan draft,” Engelmeyer said. “Then I’ll submit to FDOT for their review. From this list, we can actually move forward with projects. The installation of the barrier obviously is our No. 1 priority to get rid of cones and barriers and everything else we have out there.”
Councilwoman Deb Gillis asked when the village would receive approval on its master plan and when new barriers could be placed, knowing FDOT is preparing to initiate a shoreline stabilization project at the Fills and Sea Oats Beach. Engelmeyer said that the project will start in the fall, and what area will see work first will be up to the contractor.
“It depends on the restrictions they give to us to install barriers,” Engelmeyer said. “We could possibly install quite a bit of it, but they’ll need access to the shoreline to be able to install rip rap and everything going to stabilize that (shoreline). We could potentially work with them and close (areas) off in phases and do certain areas that don’t require any access on their part.”
Vice Mayor Ken Davis asked if the village’s barrier project could be added to FDOT’s shoreline stabilization work. Engelmeyer said they could reach out to the contractor FDOT chooses to get a quote.
“That could make the Jersey barriers a possibility,” Davis said, adding he’d also like to see hedging in front of the barrier of choice.
Councilman Jim Mooney said the village should examine an adopt-a-parking area program that’s similar to that of an adopt-a-highway, as it would defray costs.
“If I wanted to pay for six grills or whatever that number worked out to be, it would be on me and not the taxpayers to clean up once a month,” he said. “I do believe people would step up, and in return, you’d get a plaque that says ‘sponsored by.’”
In April, village council approved a five-year sublease with FDOT to maintain the Fills. Mooney said the village set out to maintain and gain some stability at the Fills, while at the same time providing an experience for people to enjoy the heritage trail and scenic highway.
“Here’s a chance for us to be in charge for a change, not be behind the 8-ball,” he said. “This is our time to shine. It’s taken 22 years to get here.”