Florida Keys News
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Crane Point zipline proposal pulled

MARATHON -- Crane Point Museum and Nature Center has withdrawn its plans for a zipline canopy tour, which proved too difficult to implement in an expedient manner.

According to Loretta Geotis, Crane Point operations director, the board of directors will meet soon to explore other income-producing options.

A scaled down educational eco-canopy tour through the tropical hardwood hammock with more sky bridges than ziplines, which was outlined at the April 8 Marathon Council meeting by a board member, is one possibility. However, no designs and no decisions have been made.

Crane Point elected to abandon a Community Development Block Grant of $727,000, obtained with support from the city of Marathon, just a few months after federal and state officials raised concerns about the zipline attraction's potential impact on threatened white-crown pigeon habitat.

The project also drew public opposition locally after the city approved a height variance to allow towers high enough to support the elevation drop for higher, faster ziplines.

The Marathon City Council last week unanimously voted to withdraw its support of the grant and to rescind the variance approval, which Geotis had requested, saying any new design will not require a height variance.

"Everybody loves Crane Point, even our opposition to the zipline idea," Geotis said. "It was a difference of opinion on how to make income. There's a whole bunch of people who supported the zipline but were less vocal."

In other council business, the council passed qualifications guidelines and rules of conduct for residents serving on city advisory committees and commissions.

"This is an important resolution," said Councilman Mark Senmartin, who pushed for the rules. "You have the possibility of people with questionable backgrounds and motives ending up on these boards, for example, the code compliance board, and it could be problematic."

The council also approved annual procedures for establishing and approving legislative priorities at state and federal levels.

Vice Mayor Chris Bull said he was disappointed to learn upon visiting Tallahassee during Florida Keys Days in February that the city had requested nothing besides wastewater funding while paying dearly for lobbyists.

Related to legislative goals, he said, "We have not been making effective use of our time in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. What I've seen is the city manager, council members and lobbyists have changed [over time], and so I would like to memorialize this and have checkpoints in our calendar."

Senmartin agreed: "The former city manager dropped the ball. A lobbyist could have helped obtain FDOT money for the flooding problem in the west end of Marathon."

City hall plans, legal services and potential changes to the charter are to be discussed at a special call meeting set for 5:30 p.m. April 29 at the Marathon Government Center.

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