County’s Higgs Beach, the “small dog park” is being relocated into a fenced-off
section of the “big dog” park out of an abundance of caution that there may be
possible graves beneath the current small dog park.
The big dog
park now is about 51,000 square feet and shaped in an “L.” The County will
cordon off about 12,000 square feet of that park to create a new small dog
park, with a new gate along Atlantic Boulevard. The water supply will be
relocated to facilitate the new small dog park, which will be completed in the
next two weeks.
As the plan to
relocate Atlantic Boulevard moves forward as part of the Higgs Beach
Redevelopment Master Plan, there will be additional changes to the dog parks to
accommodate construction. But the road relocation is currently being reviewed
by the U.S. Department of Interior as required by a recently discovered federal
Land and Water Conservation grant used to develop the property more than 30 years
In 2010, during
the master planning process to redevelop Higgs Beach, the County had
ground-penetrating radar mapping conducted to search for graves that may still
exist in this area based on historical data.
Under the small
dog park and other areas of the park, “anomalies” and “voids” were found that
were presumed to be caskets or graves, but it’s not known with certainty if
they are. The area also was the site of army barracks during the second World
War and used as place to discard debris during construction of the West
Martello Fort during the Civil War.
Out of respect
for the possibility of graves, the Higgs Beach Master Plan was developed to
preserve open green space in the area where the ground-penetrating radar
identified the anomalies and voids – and to move the road away from this area.
At the time,
redevelopment of the park was expected to move forward quickly. But it has been
delayed due to several roadblocks, including complying with that 1984 Land and
Water Conservation Grant for $80,000 from the Department of the Interior. That
grant requires long-term studies.
“The County has
always wanted to be respectful of any possible graves beneath the park by
creating contemplative green space in our redesign,” Monroe County Commissioner
Heather Carruthers said. “We had hoped to be much further along in the
redevelopment process by now. While we may never know with certainty whether graves
remain in this area – or if they are graves, whose graves they are – we are
taking this step to move the small dog park out of respect. And, we will
continue to proceed with respect as the redevelopment moves forward.”