A sign reads boat ramp only on Indian Key in Islamorada on June 27. The ramp and the Fills are currently closed. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

With a sublease agreement in place with the state, Islamorada village officials are set to discuss a conceptual plan to gain better control of a popular hangout spot known as the Fills. 

Comprising three small islands connecting Lower Matecumbe and Upper Matecumbe Keys, the Fills remains closed to vehicles, trailers and picnicking through Aug. 19. The move by the village on July 21 was made to match Monroe County’s effort to reduce the community spread of COVID-19. 

Village council’s July 30 meeting will see discussion by Public Works Director A.J Engelmeyer regarding fencing options for the Fills, which spans MM 77.5 to 79.8. Three options for barriers, with pros and cons for each, will be presented to the council for consideration. The first option details a cable barrier for an estimated cost of $322,000. Per council communication, benefits with cable fencing are its low cost and maintenance. While cable is less visible and intrusive, it requires more deflection if used as a barrier.

Option two outlines timber with rope, which is aesthetically pleasing and estimated at around $476,000. Such a barrier would require more posts, 5-foot spacing, and it could be easily damaged and vandalized, per council communication. Option three details guardrail at a cost around $644,000. A safer, more protective barrier, costs and maintenance would be higher than the other two options. It also wouldn’t be as aesthetically pleasing, per the council communication. 

The Fills were closed from mid-March to June, when they reopened to visitors along with the rest of the Keys. And with a reopening of the area came increased activity, illegal parking, citations and complaints. That led village officials to add more staffing, signs and portable restrooms

Activity on the Fills remained quiet during the Fourth of July weekend due to the full closure as a COVID-19 protective measure before the holiday. The area reopened to the public on July 7, but at lower capacity, after Islamorada council members agreed to cut the number of parking spots in half, to 40, at a July 1 special meeting. Engelmeyer told the council that the Fills, when open, are anywhere from 75% to 100% full during the week, and at capacity by 9 a.m. on weekends. 

In April, village council approved a five-year sublease with FDOT to maintain the Fills. The 2019-20 budget includes $47,600 in the public works department for a full-time Fills facility attendant and an additional $30,000 for rental of portable toilets and other operating supplies.

For now, the Fills remain closed. Councilman Jim Mooney noted during the July 1 meeting that “We have to take control of this now. The Fills have been a pain in the rear end for 20 years. It’s time to end this nonsense with the Fills.”

Council will also consider a resolution to approve a new lease with the Florida Department of Transportation for right-of-way property located at MM 84, bayside. A subaward and grant agreement between the village and Florida Division of Emergency Management for reimbursement of COVID-19 expenses will also be taken up, as well as approval of work authorization for water quality monitoring of the canal 132 restoration (Plantation Lake Estates) project. 
The July 30 meeting takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom. The meeting may be viewed live on Comcast (within Islamorada only) on the Comcast local government channel 77; streamed live on the Village website; or by Zoom webinar at zoom.us/j/91106564166.

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