A car passes through the Fills in Islamorada. DAVID GROSS/Keys Weekly

If recent survey results are any indication, a thin stretch of islands connecting Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys in Islamorada — the Fills — could maintain its natural state as nothing more than a road.  

Last month, village residents and those who own property in Islamorada were able to fill out a three-question survey to help the village council determine the future of the Fills. The idea for a survey was led by Vice Mayor Sharon Mahoney, who was not pleased with the way the previous councils kept shutting down councilman Henry Rosenthal’s push to address problems at the Fills. 

Survey questions targeted whether the property, which is owned by the state and leased to the village for maintenance and control, should be developed into something more than its current condition. A total of 1,178 entries were submitted to the village during a 30-day span in April, with 853 entries from village residents and property owners. Some 325 entries weren’t counted, as they were either double votes, had blank responses or were submitted by a person who wasn’t a resident of the village.

Currently, the Fills can accommodate a number of cars from Tea Table Relief to Indian Key Fill, allowing visitors and residents the chance to view the water, capture a sunset and watch a passing boat. Besides trash receptacles, the Fills have no amenities. 

According to survey results, 86% of entries from village property owners and residents dissented from the idea of a launching ramp, picnic tables and park-like development on the Fills. And 54% of entries were against the idea of 15-minute, limited parking spaces on both sides of U.S. 1 along the Fills to allow for people to view and snap pictures of the water. 

An overwhelming majority, 88%, said they don’t support taxpayer money for improvements and maintenance at the Fills.

It’s not the first time the village conducted a survey to determine the future of the Fills. In February 2022, results from a survey led by consultant CPH Inc., found that 60% of some 344 responses were against any improvements to Indian Key Fill, Tea Table Relief and Lignumvitae Fills. Residents who filled out the survey in 2022 were split on the parking idea. But if parking was provided, 77% believed people should be charged a fee. Roughly 52% said they’re strongly opposed to restroom facilities on the Fills. 

Mayhem at the Fills came to a breaking point in June 2019, just after the Memorial Day weekend, when scenes of overfilled Dumpsters and the litter of plastic bags and beer cans caused an uproar among residents and then council members. By 2020, measures were taken to reduce parking space and gain more control at the Fills.

With results in hand, the dais gathered for a special workshop on May 16 at Founders Park Community Center to hear from residents on what they’d like to see happen at the Fills.

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.