The small county-owned park on North Bay Harbor Drive in Key Largo. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

A popular, yet small, waterfront park on North Bay Harbor Drive in Key Largo will undergo a few minor improvements to allow for some off-street parking. County officials are also looking at implementing paid parking for nonresidents who frequent the bayside park.

Specifically, the county is seeking to move the park fence back 50 feet in order to provide  eight to 10 parking spots. Assistant County Administrator Kevin Wilson told county commissioners at a recent meeting that another option to move the fence back 100 feet to provide 20 parking spots could result in overcrowding. 

“My recommendation is we move it back 50 to 60 feet for nine or so parking spaces,” he said. “People from the neighborhood can use it and people not from the neighborhood can drive there and use it.”

County commissioner Michelle Coldiron agreed with the idea for a small number of parking spots. 

“I thought that the larger number was too much,” she said. “It takes away from then being a park and makes it just a parking lot. I like the idea of somewhere between eight and 10 parking spots so you have a place for people who don’t live within walking distance of that neighborhood but are residents of Monroe County to be able to access that park.” 

Wilson said the project would cost between $15,000 to $20,000. In addition, the county and John Allen, parks and beaches director, are looking into parking-payment software at parks, including the one on Bay Drive. Allen recommended a parking fee for the small park and down the way at Mike Forster Memorial Park, located at 20 Sunset Road in Key Largo. He also said the pay-to-park app could be used for Harry Harris Park in Tavernier. 

“You can find parking per Waze. If you get lost you can always find your car,” he said. “One of the other things is you eliminate the tollbooth that’s out there at Harry Harris. Parking apps are at no cost to the county. They make revenue through a surcharge for parking, 25 cents to 75 cents, in addition to parking fees we establish.”

Allen, too, agreed with only a few parking spots at the park on Bay Drive. Local residents would be able to use the parks and boat ramps for free, Allen said. The BOCC approved a request for proposals to secure bids for application software at the June meeting.

In June 2021, county officials shut down the park at the end of North Bay Harbor Drive in the Sunset Point/Bay Harbor subdivisions through Labor Day due to overcrowding. Users frequently exceed the limited parking by leaving vehicles and boat trailers on the shoulder of the narrow neighborhood roads, which causes traffic problems, safety issues and difficulty for residents entering and leaving driveways.

To mitigate some of the issues, roads in the Bay Harbor and Sunset Point subdivisions are designated as a no-parking, -standing, or -stopping area. “No Parking” signs were posted that include the noncriminal civil penalty set at $200.

The park on Bay Drive is open Tuesday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to sunset. People can only access the park by foot, bikes or dropoff.

If you would like to have the Weekly delivered to your mailbox or inbox along with our daily news blast, please subscribe here.

Jim McCarthy is a 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 3-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, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.