Saturday, April 11, 2009

Boot Key Bridge

As one rides into Marathon off the Seven Mile Bridge one passes a bunch of side streets to the south, nestled between construction yards, boat yards and trailer parks. Down one of these streets, 20th to be precise there is a bridge that is stuck permanently in the "up" position:The bridge used to provide land access to an almost uninhabited island on the south side of the city of Marathon. This is how it used to look as it started to open to allow a sailboat to get into Boot Key Harbor from the west (and these docks in the foreground are due for restoration as part of the new Faro Blanco resort that is in the works): Nowadays the only way to get to Boot key is by water and the reason is that old bugaboo: maintenance. The bridge was too far gone and no one wanted to pick up the tab for repairs, most likely several million dollars worth.The state said no thanks, this road is a side show and serves no useful purpose. The city of Marathon joined with the county in saying no thanks, but unlike the state and the county the city was in a slightly more sticky position. Land owners want compensation for being cut off from their formerly uninteresting mangrove lots.The bridge is squarely in the city of Marathon's jurisdiction and even though no one lives on Boot Key several people own parcels on the island and there is also an AM radio station that broadcasts from amidst the mangroves. You can see the antenna rising above the greenery:The radio station owner got predictably incensed and the employees found themselves getting ferried to their jobs across the water. Hopefully they enjoyed the novelty, but by now months later the novelty must have worn off. I haven't heard what the latest plans are, if any, though no doubt lawyers are hard at work out of public sight. The bridge itself makes a convenient dinghy landing for liveaboard boaters in the channel:The island itself I visited a few years ago, fed as I am by my insatiable curiosity. All I remember was a long straight road with a sharp bend at one point. It was smoothly paved and lined by the usual mangroves and discarded trash.I saw no reason to return, except now I have a place for photographs that I never took at the time. Never mind, the view west down the channel is charming:And the view to the east kept these two codgers entranced as they shared beer and cigarettes and traded horror stories about the iniquity of prices at Winn Dixie:I listened as I took pictures, and bid them a polite good day as I turned back the way I had come, down 20th Street, which stretched to the horizon, or more accurately to Highway One:And there was my Bonneville on the proper side of the barricades:Ready for a quick getaway from this sad and desolate place.