Updated Rowell’s design unveiled - A close up of a map - Rowell's Waterfront Park

It’s Rowell’s Park reimagined: Community members came out to the Murray Nelson Government Center on June 24 to get a look at the latest conceptual plan for the park, located at MM 104.5, bayside. 

The plan for the 8-acre park, shown during the informal meeting, includes a number of improvements and features that community members suggested during a public input gathering held on April 15. Notable amenities include a dog park, a splash pad for kids to enjoy on a hot day, a nautical-themed playground, a fitness zone and a walking, nature path. 

“We heard a lot about splash pads,” said Jack Kardys, who’s helping the county develop the park. “We also heard a lot from folks about dogs.”

Near the water, the plan shows a swimming area with zero-depth entry, non-motorized boating access and docking, kayak and paddle launches, a fishing area and public boat slips. 

Restrooms are also shown within the plan, with one located toward the front of the park inside the park office and another by the water. As for parking, there are 113 spaces available with another 100 available by the dog park that can be used for overflow during events.

Following a brief presentation from Kardys, residents had the chance to chime in with their thoughts. Many were pleased with the updated plan, and some had additional suggestions that included the idea of a living reef for those learning to snorkel in the deeper swimming area. 

This Rowell’s Waterfront Park conceptual plan was unveiled during a June 24 meeting at the Murray Nelson Government Center. The plan was formulated with input gathered from residents from an April 15 meeting. Amenities include a dog park, an event lawn, 100-plus parking spaces, a swimming area and non-motorized boat access and docking. CONTRIBUTED

John Stuart, who’s a Rotary Club of Key Largo member, expressed his excitement and noted “everyone has done a great job with compromise.” 

Dottie Moses, president of the Key Largo Federation of Homeowner Associations, said she’s pleased so many ideas were incorporated. 

“Personally, I’ve been an advocate for a shaded plant walkway and some little signs that talk about nature, the sanctuary and the Everglades,” she said.

Questions from the public included a timeline for improvements, park fees for non-county residents and avoiding the situation seen at the Fills. Kevin Wilson, assistant county administrator, said the Fills doesn’t have a local owner, where Rowells does. The design shows a park pay station/pay booth to charge non-residents. The park will remain free to local residents. Two full-time employees will also be at the park to ensure appropriate management and rules enforcement. As for a timeline, Wilson said there isn’t one yet. 

“Like anything else, it functions on how fast we can permit and fund it,” he said. “That’s why we’re starting now. We started with a rough, passive park. We’ve cleaned it up, at least the lower part. We’ll do more things as we can.” 

Just recently, Monroe County Public Works added 70 pallets of grass, 60 buttonwoods and 30 parking spaces near the park. 

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