UNEXPECTED GRANT FUNDING SHOULD ACCELERATE PARK & MARINA PROJECTS

‘Bay 54,’ chosen by Marathon residents in a vote among three designs last August, will serve as the basis for the Quay property redesign. CITY OF MARATHON/Contributed

A windfall of grant funding should help to accelerate the timelines on planning and construction for two anticipated attractions in Marathon.

At the June 14 meeting of the Marathon City Council, grants coordinator Maria Covelli announced that a large grantee had dropped out of the 2018 Florida Communities Trust (FCT) grant program. Focused mostly on land acquisition, the program aims to help communities protect natural resources, provide recreational opportunities and preserve traditional working waterfronts.

The city of Marathon applied in 2018 for two grants through the program to purchase the Quay and old Salty’s properties, but was originally informed that it missed the award by one place. With the previous recipient’s withdrawal from FCT’s program, the city will now receive a $1,488,000 grant to cover purchase and construction costs at Salty’s, with an additional $944,800 dedicated to the Quay property. Since the city has already purchased both landmarks, the value of the two properties will serve as Marathon’s matching funding for the grants.

According to Covelli, the new awards should greatly accelerate the city’s ability to move forward with planning and construction at both sites.

“Very much so,” she said. “We were still waiting on grant awards to be announced, so it wasn’t even a sure thing for the ones that we had submitted.”

Combined with a potential grant from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, the city’s preliminary plans are to use the funds for replacement of the finger docks at the Salty’s marina, which will subsequently be leased to local charter captains. Also on deck are a renovation of the property’s historic trading post, a storage area for captains using the marina, and a station for the new Pigeon Key trolley, scheduled to be operational within a month.

Meanwhile, the Quay property will look to move forward with a slightly modified version of the design dubbed “Bay 54,” chosen by Marathon residents in a vote last August from three designs for the property submitted by local D’Asign Source developers.

Though its purchase came much later, public works and engineering director Carlos Solis said the scope of work necessary at the Salty’s property means it could be finished and operational sooner than the Quay redesign. Installation of a sidewalk and utility conduit as well as parking lot grading is scheduled to start within days to allow for Pigeon Key’s trolley operation in the lot. With a remodeling plan for the building currently in the works, Solis hopes to have the project out for bid within the next four months.

The Quay property, on the other hand, is largely limited by the condition of its seawall, which Solis says will need serious repairs or replacement.

“We don’t want to do anything to the property until we get that seawall and the shoreline rebuilt and restored,” he said. “We need to just rebuild that property to where it’s safe, and right now there are a lot of issues with it. But once we get that seawall and everything restored, we can go in there, and (building the park facility) can be done within a year.

“The fact that we got the money pushes it back to the front burner where we can start working on it. You’ll probably see something in terms of design or something and within the next year, you’ll see activity going on out there.”

Solis said the Quay project is estimated to cost $1.5 million to $2 million, the majority of which will go toward replacing the seawall. The park’s development will largely be determined by the permitting process for replacement of the seawall, which requires coordination with multiple agencies including the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Army Corps of Engineers.

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.