A father and son fish on the bayside off Lignumvitae Key. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

It’s around 9 a.m. on a Saturday (June 27) at the Fills in Islamorada. Vehicles already occupy a majority of the 90 permitted parking spots from Tea Table to Indian Keys. Families unload their trunks to get food, tables, tents, coolers and fishing poles and head to the spot along the water where they’ll spend the day.

Connecting Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys, the state-owned land, known as the Fills, continues to be a cause for major concern among locals who’ve seen its continued degradation due to the impacts of use, or misuse, among visitors. Weekends come and go, leaving the Fills covered in filth, from trash to people defecating where they choose. It reached a breaking point last year following Memorial Day, when residents packed the community center at Founders Park, urging council members to do something to control the trashing and disregard among users before the Fourth of July holiday came around. 

That led to an agreement with the state that gave the village the ability to manage parking and trailers coming to Indian Key boat ramp. It also allowed for the purchasing of more trash containers and porta potties. 

Village employee: A village public works employee attends to a motorist pulling a boat into Indian Key boat ramp. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

I managed to find a spot on Lignumvitae Key where an Occupy the Fills event was underway, which aimed to bring awareness to the sheer disregard and disrespect seen by users week-in and week-out. Organized by Mark Brown and Eric Carlson, the event yielded success, with some 30 bags of trash collected and locals taking several parking spots in a show that the Keys’ natural resources should be treated with decency and respect. 

In the walk from the car to Indian Key boat ramp, families already had their stakes claimed, with tables full of food right along the water and music playing. With fishing poles and coolers in hand, others rushed to their spots in the water. 

One can’t help but notice the amount of trash, from a broken fishing pole to the amount of plastic debris littering the ground. And that’s not all people find as they clean up the Fills. 

“You won’t believe all the feces you’ll find,” Carlson said. 

It comes to a point where enough is enough. Frankly, that point was seen some time ago, if you ask locals. 

Thankfully, the Fills were shut down through the Fourth of July weekend to keep the scores of visitors from frequenting the area for safety reasons due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. During a special meeting on July 1, council unanimously agreed to reduce parking at the Fills to 50% to limit the number of visitors.

A big shout goes to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Capt. Corey Bryan, Lt. Chuck Kellenberger and deputies for their efforts in controlling the chaos the past couple weeks, from the double parking to other various incidents. Village staff is also deserving of a big thanks for all their work in controlling the parking at Indian Key boat ramp. Without the presence of these individuals, the Fills would have been even worse than we already know it to be. 

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