Friday, October 12, 2012

Channel Widening

The Key West harbor is a labor of dredging to keep it open for modern shipping, even though in the days of sail it was considered a most valuable deep water port. These days Key West is home not so much to c Mercia, fishing but lots of recreational boats, the Navy, research vessels for the sanctuary and of course the Coastguard and Navy. Let's not forget the cruise ships too.
Next week the city commission is going to take up, one more time, the issue of studying widening the channel to allow extra large cruise ships to dock. These would be ships with six thousand passengers, a quarter of the city's population. A majority of the city's population has voted already to oppose the city spending five million dollars to figure out if dredging is a good idea. Nevertheless the interests that support widening the channel have been loud in support of the plan (not with any of their money of course) while assorted environmentalists, anglers, tour guides etc... have lined up opposing the plan. Myself. I am fairly indifferent to the issue as I don't see cruise ship passengers much and you won't have to as they rarely stray far from Lower Duval. I doubt even if their numbers doubled they would be seen much further afield.
Dredging is a pretty messy activity, with the material that has to be dragged out to sea and dumped in deep water. The big cruise ships may stir up even more sand than the "little" ones already do and it's doubtful that will do much good for the coral. I have my doubts that more cruise ship passengers will do much for the gentrification image the other planners seem to have in mind for Key West. As far as I am concerned this endless debate seems to point more to the lack of a coherent vision for this city than anything else.
The waterfront is ready for development and the Spottswoods want an upscale marina with shops and Disney-like walkways and landscaping. And then the city wants to plunk down a cruise ship bigger than the iceberg that sank the Titanic right there blocking off the view. Bizarre.

Mind you the capers surrounding the undeveloped island off the waterfront is just as grotesque. The owners wanted to build a huge number of homes on the deserted island, used mostly by anchored out liveaboards as a place to walk dogs and do boat projects. Wisteria Island is so named for a ship that sank in the area, but locals call it Christmas Tree Island thanks to the Australian pines (casuarinas) that cover it.
After the Bernsein family got everyone's backs up with a plan to build seventy five homes on county land zoned for just two homes, the local group Last Stand pulled a rabbit out of a hat. One of their members found evidence suggesting the island was never properly conveyed out of a federal hands and the island properly belongs to the US government and not the Bernstein family. The Feds have agreed and everything has ground to a halt. It seems unlikely Christmas Tree will ever become something like the extremely upscale Sunset Key next door.
Apparently sudden loss of ownership is not going down well with the people who donated the only strip of parkland found on Stock Island's densely inhabited avenues.
You'd think they may want to take the park back after all this trouble over their ownership rights to Wisteria Island have been disputed. The funny thing is they bought the island from a venerable state representative who had in turn bought the island from the state even though the state admitted ownership rights were a bit vague. Meanwhile Bernstein Park belongs firmly to the people.
Who make full use of it.
I wonder how it will all end. Another funny thing I have previously reported comes to mind. The city was offered a plan to allow merchants to close off a couple of blocks of Duval Street in the evenings to create a pedestrian zone, which seemed like a really good idea to all concerned. Then the merchants outside the zone bitched and moaned that it was such a good idea it would poach customers from their stores. So what did the city do? Expand the plan, you say? Hell no they killed it off completely. That's how things work in this upside down world at the end of the road. Endlessly amusing to watch, it must be hell trying to do business here.

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