ISLAMORADA -- In a change of course, the Florida Department of Transportation has begun to work with the village to reduce parking along the Indian Key and Tea Table fills.
"We don't want to shut off access, because you know, people do enjoy it," Patty Ivey, FDOT's maintenance project administrator for Monroe County, said last week. "However, it has gotten a little out of hand on the fill as you can see."
Ivey participated in a phone conference with village Public Works Director John Sutter and Islamorada's top police officer, Capt. Corey Bryan, on June 25. She said an in-person meeting is planned at the fills after the upcoming Fourth of July weekend.
In recent years, the village has been clamoring for tighter parking restrictions along the fills in order to reduce the weekend crowds from the mainland that descend upon the 2-mile stretch of highway between Upper and Lower Matecumbe keys. Those crowds are biggest in the summer, and after especially bad weekends, it takes the village's public works' team two to three days to pick up the litter, according to Sutter.
"It's always [at least] a complete day," he said. "The accumulation, it's just overwhelming."
As recently as November, however, FDOT rejected a request from the village for more parking restrictions at the fills, documents show.
But the tide looks to have turned. In May, the road agency was quick to furnish no-parking barricades along nearby Sea Oats Beach after Sutter alerted them to village concerns about people using the turtle-nesting locale for camping.
Now, Ivey said, FDOT has also become concerned about erosion along the shoreline of the fills, which has been caused in part by weather, but has been enhanced by revelers who use the area to launch personal watercraft. The agency is also concerned about the increase through the years in the number of people who use the area.
To solve the erosion problem, Ivey said, she might recommend that FDOT install stone riprap along the shoreline. Such a move would have the secondary effect of preventing people from launching PWCs in those locations.
As for reducing the weekend crowds, she said the village has submitted sketches recommending that no-parking signs be placed along the entire right-of-way of the fills. In addition, she said, the village has asked that paved turnouts be eliminated everywhere north of the area that is immediately around the old boat ramp, near the Indian Key Bridge.
She estimated the proposal would eliminate two-thirds of the areas currently used for parking along the fills.
FDOT has made no decision on whether to accept that proposal, Ivey said. But discussions will continue at her meeting with Sutter and Bryan next week.
"Currently our design section is just reevaluating all the information," she said.