They Paved Paradise And Put Up A Parking Lot….

John Donnelly

by John Donnelly…

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

-Joni Mitchell, 1970…

The filth and debris strewn along US 1 and in the neighboring communities bordering the highway in Key Largo has reached epidemic proportions. Accompanied with traffic congestion and exacerbated decibel levels from illegally rigged motorcycle tail pipes, the quality of life that we once valued and enjoyed, has been dangerously eroded.

Of particular concern are the startling number of vehicular burglaries committed in areas that were once devoid of such activity. Big city bridges and roadways from the mainland have provided easy access to our small islands. Some of the quick criminal strikes upon our persons and property appear to have been triggered by transgressors making use of these newly constructed and opportunistic routes.

Enjoying the peace and natural beauty of the Florida Keys are realities that have been forever taken from us. However, somehow, we must find a way to  stop the bleeding, if we are to maintain any semblance of the days when people sought our islands as a refuge, safe haven and sanctuary from the maddening noise, crime and overcrowding of big city life.


Litter & Pollution'. Photo by Luther C. Goldman for Fish and Wildlife
Litter & Pollution’. Photo by Luther C. Goldman for Fish and Wildlife

Balance and wisdom have not been maintained, as our lives are being strangulated through overdevelopment. The fragile aquatic ecosystem that comprises our island communities have been dealt a series of irreversible death blows. Our tiny string of islands are not able to withstand the excessive destruction rendered unto its habitats via overpopulation.

Governments, along with their social engineers and the Tourist Development Council, have triggered a surge in the populace. Many of these visitors and day trippers contribute to the scarifying of our communities and waterways, via the reckless use of  motorized toys and machinery they’ve hauled into town.

Through an  abundance of toxic pollutants and poisonous laced litter being introduced into our waters and scattered about our miniscule land mass, we’ve allowed ourselves, families and children to be made sick. A lethal injection has been concocted that will deal us a death blow, perhaps not has rapid, but just as certain as the chemical mixture stored in the vials at Florida State Prison.

Riding my bicycle several hours a day for many years, I’ve come across every manner of broken glass, soiled diaper, chemical container, paint can and discarded piece of rubbish imaginable. Most of this litter was introduced into our homeland by individuals who do not live here.

A multi-million dollar sewer system will not sanitize our trails, paths and streets from the toxic run-off associated with wads of dog feces left by pet owners. The disease and contaminates from this type of waste are  deposited into our waters. As scientifically enumerated before, tossed cigarette butts introduce toxins into our oceans that kill fish. Still with this knowledge, I’ve not witnessed any decrease in these types of crimes.

I do not point a finger of blame at our county commissioners and staff. Frequently their decisions are in response to the energetic pleadings and presentations proffered by  builders and developers, whom are in adherence with the laws, policies and guidelines regarding their construction projects in Monroe County.

Although courageous work has been done by many extraordinary residents, committed to creating and prioritizing environmentally sound practices at the government level, come election time, many citizens continue to place back into office the same politicians who haven’t been diligent stewards of the vulnerable archipelago upon which we live. It appears that some elected officials have reneged on their campaign promises to safeguard families and their quality of life.


Water Pollution, Fish Kill'. Photo by W. L. French for Fish and Wildlife
Water Pollution, Fish Kill’. Photo by W. L. French for Fish and Wildlife

If enough citizens were energetically concerned with these issues and made their positions known to those who are making decisions on the fate and future of ‘development’ in the Florida Keys, we would be able to change the disastrous direction towards over-development and over-population, which has become Monroe County’s new norm.

If some were to pledge their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to the cause of conservation and preservation, we would create a deliberative process whereby building projects and zoning changes would come under the scrutiny of stable and rational members within our society.

I pick up trash and put my ‘money where my mouth is’ come election time, as I continue to write about this troublesome issue; however, I have not demonstrated the necessary commitment required to effectively change, or alter, our current destructive and maddening pattern of unsustainable growth.

Leadership that can bring both sides of the ‘expanded build-up equation’ to the table, so that a sane a reasonable paradigm of development can be conceived, must be sought if we are to survive.

Prospective home buyers have become aware of the destructive realities of living in the Keys. Property values are continuing to decline as traffic bottlenecks have become a way of life. A dying reef, declining fish populations and beaches closed because they are contaminated with fecal matter, are robbing us of our lives, investments and futures.

Wisdom and foresight are invaluable components of the decision making process. From this moment on, one step at a time, scientifically sound judgments can be incorporated into an AUTHENTICALLY designed plan of action, which accurately and credibly weighs the impact of increased growth. We cannot construct sardine-packed developments, with homes piled on top of one another and then stuffed together, in an attempt to house the marketed mass influx of new arrivals drawn to the Keys.

We have one road (US 1) that runs the length of our county. ONE ROAD. Over this life-line all of the necessities for life must be transported. Because of traffic accidents, blockage, opened draw bridges, road construction and the over usage of this highway by visitors, tourists and commuters; we’ve become deadlocked in a wasteland of chaos and calamity. As Hurricane Evacuation season approaches, this dangerous liability has the potential for mass annihilation.

This road can no longer provide dependable access for emergency vehicles. The freedom and fluidity to move about our neighborhoods and communities has been infringed upon as well, by a reckless and greedy cadre of co-conspirators chasing and pursuing their materialistic desires.

‘Human Life’ cannot raise its awareness nor draw upon its true potential, while under assault by a maelstrom of stressors created to appease and quell the insatiable drives of these ravenous ‘money changers’.

Common sense decisions must be birthed regarding legislative initiatives and county laws that will protect us from the onslaught of over-building abuses that are injuring and harming every aspect of life.

Desecrating our families, communities and environment are marks of an insanity fed by greed and avarice. It has never been a tolerable practice. We no longer have the luxury of time to call each other names and pretend that one side is right and another wrong. And that somehow we’ll escape the consequences of our behavior and everything will be made right.

Immediate action is necessary to release the suffocating strangle-hold grasping at our necks by those worshiping the almighty dollar. Please remember that the money people are cognizant of everything covered  in this article. They are playing the ‘waiting game’ hoping to get their money and run, without experiencing the effects of their misdeeds. They prefer that someone else is left holding the bag. I believe we know what is in ‘said bag’.

The world can be changed and the harm that’s been done reversed by one good man or women.  Once making our priorities known, we can work in concert with our county commissioners and staff, developing mutually agreed upon goals and objectives that advance policies, which will ensure the safety and survival of our communities; along with a standard of living that will maintain our property values and way of life.

Developers, builders and construction companies doing business in Monroe County will be included throughout this discussion process. A scientific foundation that analytically addresses all consequences, both pro and con; coupled with documented research and projected results certifying the impact of all building projects on our islands, will become the new standard, all must adhere to.

On more than one occasion, I have found the work of our county manger and staff to be brilliantly effective and expeditiously rendered. I respect their wisdom and trust their judgment. They have repeatedly demonstrated that they are willing to work proactively with the citizens of Monroe County. These exemplary county employees have demonstrated an extraordinary awareness when it comes to resolving  difficult problems. Their commitment and success at solving a wide-range of public interest issues, are a matter of record.

At present, an extraordinarily magnificent tree planting project has been initiated on US 1. These trees are absolutely beautiful. They are being positioned with great care and skill along this heavily traveled corridor. This restorative project reflects a charm and allure that is attractive, while offsetting the deleterious impact of a highway overrun with traffic.

We’ve reached a point where we must all join hands and rise in defense of what we love and value, as we no longer have the luxury of time to mull about uncommitted. If we neglect our duties and responsibilities as a free people, we will surely suffer a slow and painful demise, as we are asphyxiated via our own excrement.

If we stand with those level-headed conservationists, environmentalists and developers whom  have preceded us, as we courageously and cooperatively rally together, pressing on towards mutual goals and objectives with a firm, yet friendly, hand; we will arrive at a place far better than we could have ever imagined. The ‘promised land’ can be ours, if we really want it.


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2 thoughts on “They Paved Paradise And Put Up A Parking Lot….

  1. John, Your reference to motorcycle noise — noise purposely made for no reason other than the perpetrator”s childish self image — hits a bell with me. Perhaps some day I’ll post an essay I’ve written on the subject, but I believe a society that can tolerate such painful, gratuitous noise has lost its idea of civility and harmonious living. For me, it is a real sign of cultural decay, of desensitivity. I leave for my island retreat in the Spanish Med. this afternoon, and such noise would never be tolerated there. When mo-peds showed up there and teens began to make them loud, an end was put to it almost immediately. That is what happens in a civilized place. Sigh … ciao, PCM

  2. Jerome,

    My grandmother told me on more than one occasion, “empty drums make the most noise”.

    Blessings & the best of all things on your vacation. I’ll miss the valued insights and understandings that you’ve shared with us.

    Be safe…

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