ISLAMORADA -- Local officials say they're looking to alleviate the traffic jams caused by festivals at Founders Park.
"We are going to look at some other options and see what we can come up with," said Capt. Corey Bryan, who heads up the Islamorada sector of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.
Bryan spoke at the April 12 Village Council meeting, where Vice Mayor Ken Philipson related concerns he said he had heard from constituents following the annual Island Fest event, which took place at Founders Park on March 31 and April 1. Two other recent events, the Gigantic Nautical Flea Market on the last weekend in February and the Woofstock Music Fair on March 10, also routinely clog traffic heading through Islamorada.
"A lot of people were unhappy because the traffic tie up went back five miles," Philipson said of Island Fest. As a result, he went on to say, eight people missed flights out of Miami.
Village Parks Director John Sutter said his staff is well aware of the problem.
"We spend hours preparing for these events and the majority of that time and preparation is about traffic and parking," he said.
Sutter said that under village rules, only eight major events are allowed to be held each year at Founders Park. Of those, only Woofstock, the Nautical Flea Market and Island Fest cause major traffic hassles, he said.
But because those events are timed to coincide with the busy season, they fall in close proximity to each other.
Sutter called the traffic problem a "dilemma."
"This is a small town. Our main street is a federal highway. And yet our town thrives on some of these events," he said.
Philipson listed possible antidotes that he said had been generated by village residents.
The proposals included somewhat modest measures, such as restricting the size of events and not allowing left turns into Founders Park during the major events.
But they also included fanciful options, like asking the Florida Department of Transportation to build a walkway over U.S. 1.
Regarding northbound traffic, Bryan said a critical traffic component is how often the Snake Creek drawbridge opens. He said he'd try to work with the state on having the bridge open hourly during major Founders Park events, rather than on-demand.
Another idea that could have legs is positioning a portable traffic light in front of the park. Bryan promised to bring firmer proposals forward in the coming months.