June 12, 2019

THERESA JAVA/Free Press
Vegetation and grass has been added to Rowell's Waterfront Park. The property's former marina now serves as a swimming area.

THERESA JAVA/Free Press Vegetation and grass has been added to Rowell's Waterfront Park. The property's former marina now serves as a swimming area.

KEY LARGO — Since the last public input meeting on Rowell’s Waterfront Park two months ago, a near-final layout of the park has been drafted. A follow-up public meeting to unveil the plans has been scheduled next week.

The ongoing public input meetings have been at the behest of Jim Boilini, who serves on the Monroe County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. He said there most likely won’t be a full committee panel at the next meeting due to scheduling conflicts.

“We have the final preliminary design plan, contingent upon the Parks and Rec committee approval,” Boilini said.

Once a recommended park design is approved by the five-person committee, it will be submitted to county officials and the Monroe County Commission for approval.

“Yes, there’s a splash pad in the design,” Boilini added. “We listened to what people want. There’s a lot of elements that have been requested. There will be a walking path with multiple shade pavilions. We’ll have a dog area and there’s still a lot of open green space.”

Park consultant Jack Kardys, who served as Miami-Dade County’s parks director for more than 30 years, has helped facilitate the design, according to Boilini.

An online petition garnered more than 750 signatures in support of a children’s splash pad, which has also been requested during public comment at advisory board meetings.

The former marina was purchased in December 2013 for $5 million as the 21st county-owned park. It opened to the public in June 2016, then closed its gates for about 10 months to stage vegetation and defunct appliances following Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

The property’s redevelopment as a passive park has been planned in stages, beginning with the public restrooms and parking.

Permitting paperwork for wastewater collection has been filed with the state.

The restroom design and parking area is being funded in part by a $125,000 Florida Department of Transportation highway beautification grant with the rest coming from the Monroe County Tourism Development Council, for a total of $146,944.

The TDC will fund the construction phase of the restrooms.

Also, new vegetation has been installed at Rowell’s Waterfront Park recently.

Monroe County officials added 70 pallets of grass and 60 silver buttonwood trees, as well as 30 new parking spaces, closer to Florida Bay in an irrigated enclave to the left, beyond a cordoned-off section with vegetation and truck equipment.

Rowell’s Waterfront Park, 104550 Overseas Highway, is open daily until 30 minutes after sunset. The dog-friendly park features a swimming area and picnic tables.

The next Rowell’s public input meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, June 24, at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center, 102050 Overseas Highway.

tjava@keysnews.com