KEY LARGO -- Residents and tourists won't be relaxing this summer at a newly-purchased bayfront property at mile marker 104 bayside.
Rowell's Marina was acquired by Monroe County in January for $5 million. Plans to redevelop the 8-acre property as a waterfront park call for a beach, boat docks and a kayak launch area.
The county commission voted 4-1 in November to purchase the mostly-vacant property with broad support from Upper Keys business and property owner groups.
Officials have sent plans for the beachfront property to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which must approve any changes to the shoreline before the county can move forward.
"Right now, we are waiting on the beach," said County Mayor Sylvia Murphy. "There is no guarantee, but within a year we should be open."
Without Corps approval, however, Murphy said plans for the property could change all together. A series of public meetings leading up to the purchase resulted in a working plan that included plenty of open space and no restaraunts, which was initially considered as a revenue source to offset some of the costs of running the park.
The county has separated the development of the park into seven phases. The first is a $65,000 design. The second would be construction of a beach and paved parking, which would cost an estimated $600,000. Installation of a playground, gazebos, trash cans and benches would cost $100,000 during the third phase. The fourth and fifth phases would cost about $390,000 and include a walking area around the beach and a parking lot and restroom near the highway. The last two phases, which are estimated at $1,261,000, would stabilize the shoreline and install a waterfront boardwalk. It would also expand parking along the waterfront and expand the rest area.
"We are a ways off," Murphy told the Free Press Monday.
Currently, the property is being leased out for special events like the annual beer and seafood festivals.
The county is also allowing a movie production company to use the property as a staging area for no cost. The crew is in the process of filming a NetFlix series throughout the Upper Keys.
The Key Largo Chamber of Commerce has also requested use of the property for Independence Day weekend.
The county also leases a portion of the property to a local resident who stores equipment on the premises.