An aerial of Harry Harris Park in Tavernier. DAVID GROSS/Keys Weekly

A group of county officials and Harry Harris neighborhood residents walked out onto a revamped Wilkinson Point during a sunny, hot early evening on June 14. A celebration of a reinvigorated county park in Tavernier culminated in a ribbon-cutting with county commissioners and a walk around the park to view several completed projects.

Hurricane Irma’s arrival in September 2017 brought heavy damage to Harry Harris Park’s infrastructure and amenities, forcing closures of the jetty and Wilkinson Point. In 2018, county officials began to refurbish boat ramps and replace lighting at the ballfields. By 2019, permitting began for the jetty, beach and Wilkinson Point. 

A year later, walking paths and the basketball courts were resurfaced. By 2021, permitting for the beach, jetty and Wilkinson Point was finalized. Repairs on the jetty and Wilkinson Point began earlier this year. 

“I hope the entire neighborhood enjoys this park, because this is spectacular,” Monroe County Mayor David Rice said. 

Cary Knight, head of project management for Monroe County, said the celebration of reopening Harry Harris Park’s amenities was about teamwork following Irma. The county Facilities Maintenance Department did work in-house, while Suzi Rubio – executive assistant to Kevin Wilson, the assistant county administrator – was instrumental in carrying Wilkinson Point to the finish line. The architectural and engineering firm CPH Inc. helped bring the jetty project to completion. 

“There are a lot of projects that we had to do over the last four years and we’ve learned a lot from that,” Knight said. 

Harry Harris Park amenities include 11 pavilions, 34 picnic tables, playground, protected beach and swimming area, baseball fields and restroom access, among other things. The pet-friendly park is free to local residents, while nonresidents pay a fee during the weekends, holidays and lobster mini season. 

John Allen, Monroe County Parks and Facilities director, said Rubio was instrumental with the jetty and point projects. 

“She has a passion for everything she does,” he said. 

Harry Harris park is open from sunrise to sunset.

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.