Monroe County public works crews have been working to reopen County parks that have not been available for public use since Hurricane Irma due to damage suffered from the storm, as well as some of the parks being used for recovery efforts. Here’s the latest update:
Harry Harris Park in Tavernier
Monroe County’s Harry Harris Park in Tavernier will be reopened in stages. The first stage of the reopening is expected to occur during the second weekend of February. This will include the beach, swimming area, a partial playground, the beach bathrooms and the boat ramp, although with a gravel approach rather than asphalt.
Hours will be sunrise to sunset for now due to the lack of power in the park for lights. This includes the bathrooms at the beach.
Park areas north of the boat ramp, including Wilkinson Point and the athletic fields, will remain closed until the remaining vessels are removed and County crews can restore these areas.
This part of the park also may see a staged reopening. The schedule will be announced later as work progresses.
The park has been used by Unified Command, which includes the Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, as a staging area for displaced vessels collected in the Upper Keys. Captain David Dipre of the FWC said recently that only about a dozen boats remain at the park. By law, the owners of those boats must be contacted and given 30 days to pick up their boat or sign a release to have it demolished. That process is underway for all the remaining boats and Dipre said he is hopeful that the last boats will be removed from the park by mid- to late-February.
Big Pine Key Community Park
Work started this week to reopen parts of Big Pine Key Community Park. The objective is to open the parking area, the playground, skate park and tennis courts by mid-February.
The hours will be sunrise to sunset due to the lack of electricity in the park to power the lights. Further work to open other portions of the park will follow.
Following Hurricane Irma, the park was used as a site for FEMA and the state’s Disaster Recovery Center.
Bernstein Park on Stock Island
The park was about to reopen in the fall of 2017 after a one-year major renovation project to raise all the ballfields, build a new community center and construct a new playground and other amenities. But Hurricane Irma caused damage and delayed the opening.
The contractor of the project is working on the repairs and a timeline for reopening will be announced as soon as it becomes known.
Rowell’s Waterfront Park in Key Largo
Rowell’s Waterfront Park was used as a temporary hurricane land debris management site following Hurricane Irma. That operation has been completed. The park likely will be used next as a temporary debris management site for marine debris. Collection of marine debris has yet to begin, with the County working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to lead the effort.
Design of new amenities for the park continues. But the park will not reopen to the public until the marine debris management site is no longer needed. There are just no other good available options for this debris in the Upper Keys.