ISLAMORADA -- New signs, parking barriers and sewer project staging helped reduce crowds along Islamorada's fills this Memorial Day weekend, officials said. But Sunday, in particular, was still a very busy day.
"It was congested, but not overly congested," Islamorada Mayor Ted Blackburn said of the causeway connecting Upper and Lower Matecumbe keys.
Mindful of concerns from the village about litter, beach erosion and general mayhem, the Florida Department of Transportation installed additional no-parking signs ahead of the busy weekend and also put up stakes to delineate no-parking areas along portions of the right-of-way inside the bayside bike path.
Those changes were coupled with an even more significant one last week: a black cloth shoreline fence that stretched the length of the northern bayside half of the fills. The fence was installed by the village's sewer contractor Layne in anticipation of pipeline work in the area. The fills are to be used as a staging ground.
Though work laying the pipeline isn't set to begin for at least a month, Blackburn said the early staging was not implemented by the village as a crowd-control strategy.
"We did not instigate that thought, as far as I know," he said.
Nevertheless, the fencing appeared to be having an impact in the mid-afternoon Saturday, when the northern half of the fills was nearly empty. Crowds, however, were large around the boat ramp in the center of the fills, and in areas to the south.
Jennifer Francia, a 16-year-old, who had helped her brother and parents set up a tent to the south of the boat ramp, said she had seen many people move on when the area filled up. Her family typically stops further north on the 2-mile causeway, she said, but went further this year because of the fence.
Corey Bryan, Islamorada's Monroe County Sheriff's Office captain, said Sunday presented a different picture.
"There were just a ton of people all over the place," he said.
Bryan added that approximately 30 to 40 vehicles were parked that day within the area that was marked by the new no-parking barriers.
He said his staff dealt with those people by explaining the situation and asking them to leave, rather than by writing tickets.
"Everybody was really good about it," Bryan said.