Aug 042017
 

Proposed Plans dated July 2015

 

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Arnaud and Naja Girard
Arnaud and Naja Girard, owners and editors of the new, digital, Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) previously reported for the former Key West The Newspaper, Key West’s longest running independent weekly, published by Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D., from January 1994 until November 2012. The Girards are perhaps best known for their discovery of and extensive research surrounding the US Navy’s 1951 claim of ownership of Wisteria Island but are also responsible for top investigative stories including breaking news coverage of the highly controversial in-custody-death of Charles Eimers on Thanksgiving Day 2013, the catastrophic police tasing of Matthew Shawn Murphy, and the property tax scandal involving Balfour Beatty to name a few. Arnaud and Naja have lived in Key West since 1986.

  31 Responses to “The Ominous History of Key West’s Secret “Central Park””

  1. Looking online, it seems the Hawk missile was a surface to air (anti-aircraft) missile? Was not a nuclear missile? Might not have been capable of starting a nuclear war?

    Found this comprehensive 2010 blog post about the hidden park online:

    https://conchscooter.blogspot.com/2010/03/hawk-missiles.html?m=0

    For many years, there were camps in what then were called “the wetlands” on the ocean side of the airport runway. Homeless camps. The mail plane that left around 6:30 a.m. daily was the community alarm clock.

    That ended in 2004, after city commissioner Merili McCoy toured the camps. One campsite was especially foul. A big pile of trash containing the camper’s feces. I saw it myself, when the camper showed me his campsite sometime before Merili made her tour. She did a slide presentation of her tour during a city commission meeting.

    The upshot was the campers in the wetlands, I was one, were allowed to move our tents out to the bridle path facing Smathers Beach, pending construction of the city’s homeless shelter, which was named KOTS.

    I was at my campsite when assistant city manager John Jones came by one morning with a couple of Key West police officers, and I hugged him, he’s an old Alabama boy, and asked him where we could move our tents? He diverted his eyes toward Smathers Beach, and I spread the word.

    Perhaps that’s a different kind of ominous history.

    I myself have spent very little time in the the Riviera Drive side of the hidden park. I have heard homeless camps were in there.

    I cringe to think the park will be developed in some way, as opposed to simply being left alone.

    I can see conch trains hauling cruise ship passengers in there, to hear how the missiles stationed there could have started WW III – Armageddon.

    I bet the manatee in the video will really like to see their habit overrun with humans.

    I suppose progress is inevitable, though.

    • Yes. In the video Tom Hambright explains that they were anti-aircraft missiles and Commissioner Payne reminded us that years later it was made public that, had we tried to shoot down a Russian plane with one of our Hawk missiles then the Russians were under orders to nuke us. That is why the Army launching one of those Hawk missiles (the first shot) would have (unbeknownst to the Army at the time) triggered a nuclear war.

      • I can’t say I am an expert on this topic – the Cuban missile crisis – I was in college then. However, I don’t recollect any Russian war planes flying toward America as if to nuke the red, white and blue, and I imagine if such had happened, then those hawk missiles just might have been launched and the Russian nukes in Cuba obliterated by American bombers, and, well, Dr. Strangelove might then have become a true story.

        Do ya s’pose the new mayor (elected next year), or Tony Yaniz, or The Truman Waterfront Advisory Board will clamor to turn Mother Nature’s last stand on Key West into another amu$ement park?

  2. Beautifully done video. Loved the final song, puppy and–is there really a manatee swimming around back there?

    I think the area should be carefully developed. Nature and history. All levels of our government loves to sit on valuable property and keep it from We The People. Let us enjoy this remarkable space. I’m going to bike there right now, if I can find it. Why didn’t you name the road?

  3. Cynthia and I just went out. A remarkable piece of property, now being used mostly as a dump by our uncaring government. It seems one building is in shape, with a sign saying it is somehow related to air traffic control.

    Cynthia remembers that it was considered for use as a homeless shelter pre-Stock Island shelter days, especially considering so many were Vets. Was this property not considered for shelter use now? It seems ideally located. And could still be a family/sports park during the day.

    I’m glad Fats is still on the job. He wouldn’t let this go to waste if he could help it.

  4. “I cringe to think the park will be developed in some way, as opposed to simply being left alone” – Town Fool Sloan

    Yeah, and how do you think I felt when you said the entire Truman Waterfront Park Park should have been used for low income or affordable housing? And this after I have been trying to get the people on the Bahama Village Redevelopment Advisory Board (BVRAC) and City Commissioner Clayton Lopez to reconsider their thought about developing Gilleran Field aka the Petronia Street field. A possible vote that might include whether or not to develop on this open space field will be on August 10 at City Hall. Hope they don’t build there as that would be one of the biggest mistakes in the history of Key West, imo, and would greatly lower the quality of life for the residents there – as well as for others, also.

    “I think the area should be carefully developed. Nature and history. All levels of our government loves to sit on valuable property and keep it from We The People. Let us enjoy this remarkable space. I’m going to bike there right now, if I can find it. Why didn’t you name the road?” – Rick Boettger

    Rick, so far mostly what has been done besides a couple or so parking inlets and a table or two is a lot of planting of trees like – sea grape trees that attract white crown pigeons. Big problem there now that keeps people away, imo, is the homeless who “camp out” there throughout the expanse. It just does not seem safe and although I believe the homeless there just want to exist in peace, I would not recommend to a female especially to go wandering around in there. If you have an idea about what to do with it, pass it on. Great area for canoeing, but I don’t know what you could do with that. And BTW, there is another way to get into the area by bike or walking, but you and others will have to find out for yourself.

    • Here is the file showing what BVRAC will be looking at on August 10th:
      http://thebluepaper.com/wp-content/uploads/Large-File-Visioning-Capital-Projects-work-plan.pdf

    • Bill, I spoke at public meetings about leaving the soccer fields alone, and against putting a “high end” multiple purpose athletic field on Truman Waterfront.

      The history of Truman Waterfront I heard at government meetings, mostly compliments former city commissioner Bill Verge, is the Navy had helping Bahama Village first in mind when it deeded Truman Waterfront to the city. I personally don’t see businesses going in there will likely work out. Housing will, I think. Unfortunately, the city is so stretched for actually affordable rental housing that its lack trumps just about everything else, in my opinion.

      Truman Waterfront was, still is, spoil land. That is, it is man-made, from dredging, it is scarified. There was, still is, nothing natural about Truman Waterfront, but a few very old aussie pines and a couple of other very old trees someone must have planted before I was born, given how big they are, and I’m nearly 75.

      There is no way to compare turning Truman Waterfront into a public park, with the part of Key West in this blue paper video. Truman Waterfront would have been a great place to put a lot of Housing Authority actually affordable rental housing.

      Only by using free city land can actually affordable rental housing be built, and only the Housing Authority charges rents that poor working stiffs, elderly on fixed income, etc. can afford. Developers simply cannot do it, yet that’s who the city keeps looking at to build affordable housing. It has become a cruel joke, what today is said at city commission meetings to be affordable housing.

      Instead, the city is putting in a park on Truman Waterfront, which park had a lot of chiefs making input, which park will cost the city a lot of money, and then it will cost money to keep it going. Ironically, there is lovely Fort Zachary State Park right next door, which costs the city nothing.

      Wonder how homeless people will respond to a new free public park on Truman Waterfront? Will there be benches there, or not, because benches attract homeless people? Will there be bathrooms, or not, or will bathrooms be kept locked except for events, because bathrooms attract homeless people?

      Affordable Housing Authority rental housing on Truman Waterfront would have paid for itself, and then generated revenue for even more affordable housing on free city land elsewhere in the city.

      That aside …

      I imagine this blue paper article has opened this undeveloped part of Key West up for considerable discussion, and I suppose there will be plenty of opinions coming forward about how to go about it. Perhaps raised walking platforms and wooden benches on the platforms will suffice for nature lovers. I don’t imagine that will satiate merchants and developers, though.

      • The City is well aware of Little Hamaca Park, but logistics are difficult for any development there and might not be allowed, anyway. Playing fields, maybe, but I don’t know. The security factor is a major problem and potentially so bad that the Pickleball people who are seriously looking for an additional location for their courts have turned that area down. Pickleball is a cross between tennis and ping pong and uses a smaller court than tennis. They have 6 courts at Higgs Beach alongside the tennis courts.

        Benches and bathrooms at Truman Waterfront Park: Some benches are slated to be there, but awhile back when I asked if 3 concrete benches that are in outside storage could be used for the grounds of the PAL building, I was told that there would have to be a divider installed in the middle to prevent the homeless from sleeping on them day and night. From experience, benches didn’t work out.

        There is a bathroom penciled in for the Playground area (have to have one there, obviously) so I presume it will be open in the day, but closed at night. Another bathroom will be by the amphitheater, but I don’t know if their intentions are to keep it locked except for events – probably so.

        Before I was appointed to the Truman Waterfront Park advisory board I did some research on that area, and while doing so I conducted some loose field interviews with people who lived in Bahama Village. One elderly gentleman who has been there for generations opened up, as did others like him, when I told him this was strictly confidential. The main question was – “Would you like to see affordable housing or other development, etc. on the Petronia Street field or keep it like it is as an open, green space field?” He pretty much summed it up for me and echoed other’s sentiments when he said, “If they put housing there, they’ll always need more housing and then more housing. We need open space down here more than anything.

        • I ask my pesky questions, because this park has been touted as a place for the public to enjoy day and night, on foot, walking in from nearby wherever.

          People walking around Old Town have been drinking booze, soft drinks, coffee, tea, etc. Kids with adults tend to need to use the toilet at any moment. Truman Waterfront is remote from any public facilities. If there are not public bathrooms there, and they are not open when the public is there, than that’s going to be a real problem and a cruel joke, and ridiculous. If there are no benches there, for people to sit on, rest, enjoy the view, then same diagnosis. A very expensive diagnosis – the cost of the park, and the cost of maintaining it after it’s built.

          It was stated at public meetings I attended, that the success of the park absolutely hinged on Admiral’s Cut being opened up for pedestrians to walk into the park from the waterfront. I asked at one city commission meeting, if that is so, then why is the city plowing ahead without having Admiral’s Cut nailed down? Did the city ever get access to Admiral’s Cut? If not, well, does the diagnosis morph to insane?

          As for affordable housing, I attended a lot of public meetings on that. The numbers being tossed around by city staff were, there is a 3000 to 6000 unit shortfall. If true, then that problem is hopeless. The city has not the land to fix that problem without building skyscraper housing projects. Like, 30 stories tall, on it’s remaining land.

          So, in that sense, the Bahama Village man elder has a point. And, because he lives in Bahama Village, if he’s out in the new park and the bathrooms are locked up and he has a call of nature, he can just hustle home trying to hold it in before he messes himself. En route, he passes adults and kids peeing and pooping in the park, because they could not hold it in any longer. Because the bathrooms were closed. Because homeless people might use the bathrooms, if they were open.

          I told the mayor and commissioners at commission meetings, that if they build that park, homeless people will be there, and will the city react by not having benches and bathrooms the public can use. Guess what I heard back? The sound of one hand clapping. Silence.

          • Sloan,

            As far as I know:

            Bathrooms, etc.: As I have said, there will probably be at least a bathroom open by the Playground. But the Park hours will be governed by rules in place of other City parks – meaning it will be off limits at night unless there are events taking place. During events the amphitheater bathrooms should be open, and if and when Building 103 is open for business, there will be a bathroom there.

            Admiral’s Cut: There have been ongoing discussions about this as you know, but the City does not have any claim to it at this time. The only negative effect of not having Admiral’s Cut open would be if the Park was turned into a large commercial area instead of keeping it a beautiful, open space area as it should be, imo. You know, potentially more walk in traffic to buy stuff at a Park area shopping center.

            Homeless: Everyone knows about the problem, trust me, and some have said why bother with a nice park when the homeless will try to take over? Others say the homeless problem shouldn’t dictate or prevent us from having a nice City park, so let’s build it and try to keep it under some form of control. Why let a very small minority mess up the works for hundreds of thousands of people? Not a big deal, but my proposed (and approved by the TWAB board) sculpture concept theme for the Park – Mermaids/Dolphins/King Neptune will not be allowed to be in a pool setting because the homeless would in all probability wallow and bathe in the pools. That’s no great loss, though, as the sculpture (s) would be great by themselves.

            Affordable housing: Right, at least 3,000 units are needed, so why bother with 100-200 or so in a Park? Maybe every little bit helps, but how much would it hurt?

            Commercial: In a Park? Bahama themed commercial admittedly would be interesting, but not at the expense of ruining the entire area by building it on the Petronia Street field. 3-4 commercial building “Conch houses” between the Navy Tower and the Keys Energy buildings would be the perfect place for commercial and was proposed late 2015 or early 2016, but BVRAC turned down the idea.

  5. Blue Paper Editor,

    What’s the deal with the new Hawk Missile Site diagram, and how old is it. Before Hamaca was set aside as a kind of preserve?

    • Just received it today. It is dated July 2015. Apparently this has been in the works for awhile. There are issues with utilities. We will hear from the engineers on August 15th about infrastructure issues – sewer, water. The thinking is if you are going to invite the public to use for active recreation then there must be bathrooms…

  6. Bill Volpain, no space for me to respond under your “August 7, 2017 at 9:30 am” above.

    If the bathrooms are not open at night at the new park, except during special events, say at the amphitheater, then was was the point in building the park?

    There was no disagreement at city commission meeting that opening Admiral’s cut to the new park was crucial to success of park. City manager said negotiations were underway with Wash family, which owns Westin and Sunset Key, re getting Admiral’s cut open, and indication was Walsh would go along with it after seeing plans for new park.

    Right, might as well stop talking about affordable housing. Nothing can be done but shore a few drops of water at it.

    Perhaps the city commission passes an ordinance making it illegal to mention affordable housing at city commission meetings.

    Naja did not clear my other comment made during the wee hours this morning. I suggeted your check out Bayview Park on nights when people are playing softball at the ball field, tennis at the tennis courts, basketball at the basketball court, and the bathrooms are locked up to try to keep homeless people out of the park at night.

    I suggested you talk with city parks staff who take care of Bayview Park and learn how homeless people trash and tear up the public bathrooms, and how that was explained to Mayor Cates, when he asked about it and was told the only way to stop it is to close the bathrooms. Or so, I heard told by one of those city parks employees, who said he told that to Mayor Cates. A city park employee I know works at Bayview Park, and other city parks, keeping them up.

    • “If the bathrooms are not open at night at the new park, except during special events, say at the amphitheater, then was was the point in building the park?”

      Generally, the Park will be closed at night and off limits, so why would bathrooms have to be open at night? The point in building it? The point is to have a nice park area for locals and our guests and families to enjoy the outdoors; good weather; throw a picnic blanket down and relax – eat a sandwich and drink a soda; a place to enjoy life and get away from hassles; a fun place to go to for recharging; have a great, uncluttered and unbuilt out area like many other cities, etc.; a sanctuary.

  7. Seems that KW thinks the solution to homeless is not to have benches or restrooms.
    They need to figure out that when the homeless need use a restroom and they are locked that they will use the ground . As for benches just put dividers in them and problem is over.
    Most homeless would prefer to not live like that but often they have no choice. Many live off of SS or disability checks of $1,000 or something near that number. Now where can they live on that ? Are a few towns they might manage but the woods look better and if on drugs or beer then they prefer the life of KW . The cops have tried to run the homeless off but failed. At best they arrest them and get a bed to sleep in , some food and medical help all on tax payers money.

    And yes if you create a new park the homeless will find it and hide on it at night.

    Few months ago when walking in Ft Zack in the wooded area between the fort and the beach seen someone had stashed a few items to sleep in. No did not touch it or turn it in as see no harm in them trying to live another day.

  8. Talked with someone yesterday afternoon who recalled being at a city commission meeting I recalled attending, when it was proposed from the dais that the new homeless shelter be put near the old missile base and the city manager said that land was deed-restricted and could not be used for residential purposes, had to be a public park, or something like that. Perhaps the city clerk has a transcript of that meeting.

    Perhaps related, perhaps not, someone on the mainland, who wishes to remain anonymous, perhaps the reason is seen in what he emailed to me yesterday last below. I recall Ron Demes, the Navy’s civilian spokesperson, who attends local government meetings when the Navy’s interest might be involved, at a city commission meeting told me there were toxic materials in the ground on Truman Waterfront; the Navy had cleaned up the ground on the ocean side of the road through Truman Waterfront; the rest of the ground on Truman Waterfront could be cleaned up, but the Navy was not going to do it; on Truman Waterfront ground that was cleaned up, the Navy would not object to affordable housing being put there. During closing citizen comments, I told the mayor and commissioners what Demes had told me, and suggested that ask Demes, who was still in the audience. They did not ask Demes.

    During a Pirate Radio interview of mayor candidates that year (2014), I recounted that on the air. The DJ was wildly enthusiastic about putting Housing Authority rental units on Truman Waterfront. City Commissioner Jimmy Weekely called in and said a lot of affordable housing could be put on the Bahama Village 6.something acres.

    From Anonymous on the mainland:

    “In regards to the Blue Paper- I think the WWW-3 is a bit off base, but it does speak to what needs to happen to facilities that were ex-military. Need look no further than abandoned silos in the mid-west nor to Anniston AL and Gadsden AL, or even UFOlogy favorite Area 51- the military industrial complex dumps whatever it can, however it can, the easiest way it can and then other people feel the consequences. BLM doesn’t want anything to do with the issues of Key West for two reasons: 1) The land/development lobby and 2) they would have to acknowledge and handle massive hazardous waste cleanup. Example: Workers at Area 51 got sick from the 70’s-late 90’s- why ? The military would dig trenches and treat toxic waste like they did human waste- they would mix in diesel and burn it. They burned it such that the wind blew the fumes back towards workers. Workers were then told in Federal Court they had no right to know what was burned. Why is Area 51 called Area 51 ? Because that is how it was designated on BLM Maps and it’s on a section of BLM Land that was designated Area ##.

    :I can almost guarantee you there are PCB’s in the land. God knows what else. There was hardly a place where the US Government handled nuclear materials that they did not have a leak or a spill… Is there documentation for nukes in South FL ? Is there documentation for a lot things that went on in South FL ?
    During the Cuban Missile Crisis most of the US nukes in play were in Turkey- and that is why the USSR hooked up with Castro- you remove your shit from my backyard(Turkey), I remove the shit from your backyard(Cuba).

    “But the US was in a game- they way they saw it- and there was no end to their one-ups-manship. So could there have been ? Yes. Consider the drive from Oakridge is only 21 hours, the flight in a C130 was much shorter…”

    On the telephone last night, Anonymous told me that the Key West Hawk missiles could have been coordinated to fire at anything in the air, on the sea, on the ground, and there were Hawk missiles elsewhere in South Florida, aimed toward Cuba.

    I have heard there is left over US military toxic material in the ground on Wisteria Island, and Demolition Key toward Stock Island, which I saw up close in 2009, from a friend’s skiff, once was an explosives testing site, thus its name. Demolition Key was a beautiful wild-looking island with bird rookeries. It was a park and people were not allowed to set foot on it. I think, but am not positive, Demolition Key is a spoil island, like Wisteria, Sunset Key, Truman Waterfront, Ft. Zachary State Park.

    • Affordable housing on Key West’s last remaining public open area? The key word not mentioned in your writings is “foresight.” Nothing else is relevant.

      The truth will set you free if you read and study the 100’s/thousands of pages, reports and legal documents about the Waterfront property and surrounding areas. Hint: Your answer is within page 25, I believe from memory, of one of the documents.

      • Foresight? Truman Waterfront Park? Hee, haw!

        Generating no revenue to pay for itself or its ongoing maintenance.

        No parking.

        Remote.

        People have to walk or bicycle or taxi or Uber into it.

        Can’t get straight to it from Mallory Pier and Westin pier.

        Maybe there will be benches to sit on, bathrooms for park visitors to relieve themselves. Maybe not.

        I been watching that “foresight” since the locals were blocked from going out to Truman Beach and the Outer Mole Pier in 2003. While cruise ships docked several days a week at the Outer Mole and Ed Swift’s conch trains, paid hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by the city, shuttled those cruise ships’ passengers into Old Town and Swifty’s conch train and Old Town Trolley terminals and maid-in-Asia genuine conch republic gift and trinket shops – what a deal! For Swifty.

        Always looked to me that what actually drove the “development” of Truman Waterfront was, is, the power boat races. The park had to accommodate parking for that annual mega LOUD monster boat and trailer and truck event. Those megas will be parking in the park, on the grass, allegedly paying for their damage to be fixed.

        Foresight certainly defines the city’s approach to affordable housing. Hee, Haw!

        I doubt one of City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley’s Faustos Food Palace store employees can afford the rents at Perry Court, for which Jimmy led the charge for the city to give a mainland developer his $12,500,000 down payment, so he could buy it totally with other people’s money, to save that market rate rental housing I doubt any city employee below department head or assistant city manager can afford.

        After reading the latest comments under the article, Anonymous on the mainland, who wrote to me about the missiles and toxic waste in the ground, which I shared in my comment yesterday, wrote to me:

        “That’s a fucked up place you live Sloan. When the truth gets too inconvenient go rank and file and perform the Schultz Shuffle “I know nothing.” Can’t ruin New Eden can we ?”

        I wrote back to him:

        “I told a visitor from London, England, on the shuttle bus into Key West this morning, that Key West is not part of America, it only pretends to be, to get federal funding; it’s actually a banana republic.”

      • Meanwhile, Key West continues to welcome with open arms the dirtiest, worst possible cruise ships. (Said by Key West Chamber of Commerce president during run up to the widen the channel to bring in bigger cruise ship referendum, which the Chamber strongly supported and the voters crushed)

        https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/02/business/princess-cruise-lines-fine.html

        • Okay, here’s one for you: You listed “no parking” as a problem at the Truman Waterfront Park. Originally, 225 parking spaces were supposed to be there, but that number has been increased, I believe, to over 300. In your opinion, how many parking spaces should be there?

  9. Love the park…My old stomping grounds. May I just say, go enjoy it before the “improvements” are implemented…

  10. This is a fascinating story. I am always amazed at the secrets of Key West that are reported on. Although a park would be ideal I’m not too thrilled with it becoming an athletic park. There is an issue of accessibility and practicality. sports team have equipment that needs to be transported in and out. Having to park in the park will require motor vehicle access. How would this be policed? Will everyone be able to drive a car in? That would be a shame because it would take away from the natural beauty of the setting. No cars, please.

  11. Will be checking this park out on next trip down. Something new to see that we never even knew about.

    As to the homeless never had a problem with them. Years ago they were all over Duval.
    Actually had one tell me he was not like the others and simply was trying to get enough to buy a beer. Handed him a few bucks and told him to go get his drink.

    Who knows someday it could be me homeless. Think I would move back to KW but the wife prefers where we are an just visit often.