2022 brought no shortage of headlines to Marathon, many of which began in the first months of the year and look to continue well into 2023. Stop us if you’re tired of hearing any of the following words: permits, affordable housing, DEO, lawsuits or building rights. But along with the trials, both literal and figurative, our community managed some amazing feats throughout the year. Let’s take a look in the rearview mirror…
We started 2022 right off the bat with one of the year’s biggest happenings as the renovated Old Seven Mile Bridge reopened to the public, bringing back one of the city’s iconic locations. It was a rough start for city government, however, as the year opened with the arrest of newly-elected city councilman Trevor Wofsey. Wofsey would resign from the council four days later.
In Other Headlines:
- Friends of the Lower Keys sued Marathon for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.
Tasked with appointing a fifth council member in the wake of Wofsey’s resignation, Marathon fielded 14 applications for the vacant seat, eventually narrowing the field before the council remained deadlocked between two candidates: real estate agent and 2021 election runner-up Jody “Lynny” Del Gaizo and Tackle Box owner Robyn Still. Unable to arrive at a majority decision, a literal coin toss decided the seat for Still.
Over at Marathon High School, students celebrated their classmate Rylan Chapa as the senior standout won gold in her weight class in the Florida state girls weightlifting championships. Chapa would go on to stack many more honors throughout the remainder of the school year, to the point that Keys Weekly jokingly informed her she was not allowed any more real estate on our pages.
In Other Headlines:
- A building reinspection ordinance claimed its first victim as tenants of a 15-unit apartment building on Coco Plum Drive were ordered out when the building was deemed unsafe.
- Keys Weekly published a construction update for ongoing Marathon projects.
The Keys Weekly editors teamed up for a massive multi-week series on the housing crisis in the Florida Keys, including causes, current scenarios and potential fixes. Meanwhile, Marathon permit wait times took a massive hit as the state Department of Economic Opportunity rescinded its long-standing Memorandum of Understanding with Marathon over the city’s decision to issue permits for the 39th Street development known as Boatworks during an ongoing appeal of said development. With the state requiring oversight on all permits, instead of a limited subset as before, many contractors were left unable to proceed with their projects as the wait for permits skyrocketed.
Following the tragic loss of Marathon High School’s Rebecca Thacker, the Dolphins boys baseball team dedicated the remainder of their season to the beloved English teacher. The team secured a regular-season conference championship, but had its championship game cut short due to weather, leaving them just two runs short of a South Florida Baseball Conference (SFBC) title. Head coach Joey Gonzalez was honored as the SFBC Coach of the Year, while senior Ben Hiller earned the Conference Player of the Year nod.
Three iconic Keys lighthouses, including Marathon’s treasured Sombrero Key Lighthouse, were sold at auction, netting from $415,000 to $860,000 apiece. Though the Sombrero Key structure is now privately owned, very little can be done with the property due to the interplay of several agencies’ regulations. Meanwhile, the Stars of the Florida Keys cheerleading team ended an undefeated season with a national title at the Florida Cheer and Dance Association’s competition in Orlando.
Marathon’s seniors went out in style as Marathon High School and the Take Stock in Children program both celebrated commencement exercises. Meanwhile, the quick action of Marathon captain John Callion saved two lives in a tragic parasailing accident that proved fatal for one Illinois mother. The captain of the parasail boat would be charged with manslaughter later that year. And as it always does, the Marathon community rallied around a local favorite food truck when Irie Island Eats unexpectedly went up in flames in late May.
In Other Headlines:
- Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on affordable housing development “Bell Haven”
- Gas prices fuel concerns for Keys captains
- Trolley and power line usher in new era for historic Pigeon Key
- Powerboats are coming back to Marathon in 2023
The heat of the summer brought an action sports legend to Marathon as Travis Pastrana jumped the open span in the Boot Key bridge as part of a shoot for his “Gymkhana 2022” film, eventually released in December. The jump was a subject of debate for the city council, requiring extensive discussions and multiple meetings before it got the green light. Marathon and DEO squared off in a final hearing to determine whether live-aboard boats could, indeed, be moved onto land and used as building rights to develop homes – a concept eventually denied by administrative law judge Todd Resavage in an October final order. Working to protect the treasured aquatic resources of the Florida Keys, the National Marine Sanctuary released a draft of its Restoration Blueprint, proposing the first significant changes to sanctuary regulations in more than 20 years.
In Other Headlines:
Miami’s Third District Court of Appeals dealt a massive blow to affordable housing throughout most of the Keys as it determined that most of the 1,300 building rights given to the county and independent municipalities by the state under then-Governor Rick Scott were illegal. A shark bite that caused 10-year-old Jameson Reeder to lose part of his leg at Looe Key Reef reignited local debate on the interaction between humans and the apex predators. In continuation of a trend that’s shown no signs of slowing down, Marathon witnessed one of its largest migrant landings as 123 Haitians spilled off a poorly-constructed sailboat in the area of 79th Street Ocean. But in the midst of a rough month for news, a monumental community effort that began in late June culminated in the reopening of Marathon’s Rotary Park on Aug. 20. Described as “truly tremendous and epic” by Parks and Recreation Director Paul Davis, the structure was literally built by volunteers’ hands from around the city.
After months of discussion, the Marathon City Council approved fees soon to be paid by visitors for the use of Marathon’s boat ramps, along with parking at said boat ramps and Sombrero Beach. Non-residents will pay $25 to launch or retrieve a boat at any of the city’s three public boat ramps, along with a $20 flat fee per day to park there. Sombrero Beach parking will be $5 per hour for the first two hours, followed by $2 per hour thereafter. The fees and enforcement are expected in early 2023.
October brought a celebration of Marathon’s athletic prowess as cross country runner Vance Bursa claimed an individual district title as a prelude to his blazing ninth place finish at the Florida State Championship meet.
And after the 2022 season, no Marathon football player will again wear the number 32 as the school retired the number in honor of MHS defensive coordinator, hometown hero and former FHSAA Player of the Year Andra Garvey.
A vibrant campaign for the largest Marathon City Council election since the city’s incorporation culminated on Nov. 8. From a field of nine candidates, Lynn Landry, Robyn Still, Jeff Smith and Kenny Matlock emerged victorious to fill the four open seats on the council. Just down the road, Beth Ramsay-Vickrey and Freddie Foster won the two open seats on Key Colony Beach’s city commission. KCB’s then-Code Enforcement and Planning and Zoning Board chair Joey Raspe was appointed weeks later to fill the seat on the commission left vacant with the unexpected passing of beloved commissioner Ron Sutton.
As Marathon prepared to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, it also welcomed the first ever Marathon Latin Festival with more than 30 renowned Latin music artists taking the stage at the Marathon Community Park. Headlined by Cuban music pioneer Baby Lores, the festival sold nearly 1,500 tickets to benefit Somos Esperanza, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to offering hope to disadvantaged families with children suffering from pre-existing conditions or chronic or incurable diseases.
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