March 25, 2020

ISLAMORADA — A wave of public-facility closings linked to the coronavirus menace caught up to Islamorada last Thursday.

Beaches and the Founders Park aquatic center, dog park and marina boat ramp were closed beginning Friday, March 20, until further notice, Islamorada officials said in a statement.

The closing also applies to Library Park Beach on Upper Matecumbe Key, Anne’s Beach on Lower Matecumbe Key, and “the area known as The Fills from mile marker 77.5 to 79.8, and the boat ramp at Indian Key Fill.”

“We decided to proceed with an abundance of caution,” Village Manager Seth Lawless said Thursday.

Unless additional restrictions are announced, residents will be able to use the Founders Park walking trail, basketball court, sport field, tennis and pickleball courts. All restrooms will be locked.

In an emergency meeting Tuesday, March 17, Village Council members made a tentative decision to keep beaches open if possible. That was reversed two days later after Key West, Marathon and much of South Florida closed beach access during the traditional Spring Break period.

“We didn’t want to be the only attraction,” Vice Mayor Ken Davis said. “As the Miami Beach mayor said, ‘The party is over.’ “

The Plantation Yacht Harbor marina’s ramp and fuel docks will close. Marina residents will be able to access some facilities. No new vessels will be booked into the marina.

Additional precautions taken by the village in the COVID-19 alert include reducing access to Islamorada’s Administration Center at Founders Park.

“The lobbies will be open for customers to drop off permits, applications, other documents,” says the March 19 statement. “No in-person meetings will be held. Conference calls and email correspondence will be utilized to maintain services.”

“One size doesn’t fit all,” Islamorada Mayor Mike Forster said during the emergency Village Council meeting March 17. “We are able to do what we feel is best for our constituents.”

Islamorada’s event program for festivals and other community activities has been canceled for the indefinite future after COVID-19 alarms sounded.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order last week to close statewide bars and nightclubs and cut restaurant seating to 50% of the eatery’s permit with a 6-foot buffer zone between groups, prompted the March 17 Islamorada session. DeSantis on Friday ordered all restaurants in the state to move to takeout or delivery only.

A scheduled March 26 regular council meeting was postponed until April 16. Meetings for all Islamorada citizens’ advisory committees have been put on hold.

“Stay away from people who are sick,” Councilman Jim Mooney said. “This will pass; this isn’t Ebola. If calmer heads prevail, we’ll get through this.”

Based on talks with government officials, Forster said that despite some calls for “closing the Stretch” on U.S. 1 to southbound visitors, chances of blocking the highway appear remote.

“One thing to put to rest: I have so far not found any administrator or civil servant who said they’re going to start that or even form a task force to come up with that,” the mayor said.