September 6, 2017

Theresa Java/Free Press 
Monroe County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy addressed attendees at the Rowell's Waterfront Park forum during last week's meeting.

Theresa Java/Free Press  Monroe County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy addressed attendees at the Rowell's Waterfront Park forum during last week's meeting.

KEY LARGO — The well-attended Rowell’s Waterfront Park forum last week generated a lot of local input for the development of the 8-acre county-owned park.

Among some of the suggestions were a 6-foot wall, an earlier county-imposed noise ordinance, a boat ramp, a kayak launch, tree-lined brick pavers, a splash pad, an enclosed dog park and a new name.

“The two main things we factored in building this park were providing a large open space and a wide-open view of the water from U.S. 1,” said Deputy County Administrator Kevin Wilson.

He said during previous park-planning discussions, the decision had been made clear to not provide a motorized boat launch on the mile marker 104.5 property.

“We didn’t want a boat trailer parking lot,” Wilson said.

Northbound neighboring Tamarind Bay Club contends that its boat basin is too close to the park’s existing dilapidated boat ramp and fears potential boating accidents.

The Tamarind Bay Homeowners Association President Dave Rettig also asked the county to help the condo association repair or replace the 6-foot chainlink fence that currently separates the two properties. He said the association was unaware until recently that the fence is on the condo’s property line, making it responsible for the upkeep.

Rettig said repairing the fence would be too costly as “about 100 native trees have grown through it,” and according to him, each tree would cost $300 to $400 to cut down, depending on the diameter and species of tree.

“We like the idea of the park. We just don’t want to have to feel the brunt of it,” Rettig added.

Wilson said the county should be able to work something out to secure the existing fence.

Local business owner Robby Majeska recommended walls between the park and adjacent properties.

“It’s a given that we need walls there, against both the north and the southbound neighbors,” he said. “We need a safe place for our kids to play.”

He said another source of contention with Key Largo residents is that the park’s development is taking too long. The property was purchased almost four years ago for $5 million and few amenities have been added since then.

“I just don’t know why it’s taking so long,” Majeska said.

To address noise concerns from the neighboring condo owners, local musician Patrick Knotts proposed the county build a small amphitheater in the park facing the opposite direction. The property has been used for large fundraising events, many of which include live music.

Dottie Moses, president of the Island of Key Largo Federation of Homeowner Associations, said, “Noise has become a county-wide issue.”

Wilson responded that a stricter noise ordinance than the one already in the books would have to be approved by the Monroe County Commission.

Business owner Scott Baste’s recommendation to move a proposed kayak launch to the southern side of the park seemed to gain the most traction during the meeting.

Concept drawings show a parking lot on the south side with the kayak launch on the opposite side.

“That’s a long way to carry a kayak that sometimes can weigh up to 60 pounds,” he said. “No one is going to use that ramp.”

The splash pad for children generated interest on the part of County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy, although details of the cost and upkeep would need to be determined.

County Project Manager Christopher Rivera told the gathering that he anticipates the construction of the park’s Florida Department of Transportation-funded bathrooms will begin before the end of this year. These restrooms will include three men’s bathrooms and three women’s bathrooms and will be placed inside the gated entrance to the park. They will not be open outside of park hours.

County officials said they intend to have another public forum on park plans at a date to be announced.

tjava@keysnews.com