BOCC ACCEPTS WORKING WATERFRONT GRANT TO PURSUE PURCHASE OF “GULF SEAFOOD” ON STOCK ISLAND
MARTAHON – To help preserve precious working waterfront in the Florida Keys, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved partnering with the Florida Communities Trust to purchase an 8-acre property, formerly known as “Gulf Seafood,” on Stock Island.
The County earmarked $5 million in sales tax revenue more than a year ago for the property at 6021 Peninsula Avenue. At its recent meeting, the BOCC voted to accept a $2.29 million Stan Mayfield Working Waterfront Grant to help fund the expected $7 million purchase price. The grant is awarded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection through its Florida Communities Trust.
“The purchase of this valuable property will forever preserve it as working waterfront specifically for our commercial fishermen,” said Lisa Tennyson, Monroe County’s Director of Legislative Affairs.
William Roche, a fourth-generation commercial fishermen whose family in the Keys dates to the early 1900s, told the Commission he has watched developers convert many of the docks once used by commercial fishermen into marinas and other development. To help ensure that commercial fishing and its culture continue for the next generation, Roche said it’s “imperative” to protect the working waterfront that remains.
Bill Kelly, Executive Director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, told the Commission that the Keys commercial fishermen catch about $135 million worth of salt water marine life annually. Longtime commercial fishermen George Niles, who began running his own boat at age 14, added that the Keys four primary fisheries – yellowtail, spiny lobster, stone crab and king mackerel – are all healthy and thriving.
But in order for commercial fishermen to continue to catch fish and contribute to the economy, they need working waterfront for storing their traps and keeping their boats docked. The Gulf Seafood property can accommodate about 30 to 40 boats and store about 100,000 traps for spiny lobster and stone crabs.
“This is not without precedent,” Kelly said. “Hundreds of municipalities around the nation have made this investment [in working waterfront] to protect their economies. With commercial fishing being the second largest economic engine in the Keys, this [purchase] is vital.”
The commercial fishermen in attendance at the meeting all clapped when the Commission approved moving forward on the project.
Accepting the Mayfield grant was the first official step. It allows the state to begin the process of buying the property from its private owner. If all goes well, the state will present a final purchase agreement to the County to approve. If purchased, the state will deed the property to the County, which will develop a management plan. This process is estimated to take 9 to 12 months to complete.