Now, Vorstman has taken on new partners who support the ecolodge venture, forming Bonefish Holdings LLC. He says, the same frustrations remain in dealing with rules, regulations and zoning that is supposed to protect the environment, but in reality does not.
“You can’t just lock the door and put a fence around it and live in Disney World and think that the native flora and fauna is going to survive,” he said.
Deteriorating habitats, such as the land in Islamorada, don’t get better on their own. Millions of dollars are required for restoration and maintenance. That’s where the high-paying eco-tourists come in, Gentry said.
During a recent tour of the land, Tom Donovan, owner of project participant Donovan Construction, pointed out the remains of a foundation where a house used to be years ago. Someone had pitched a tent next to it. Another tent, despite no trespassing signs, was put up near the beach.
Donovan didn’t need to point out all the trash, much of which has washed ashore from the nearby sandbar used by partiers on boats just offshore of Holiday Isle.
“We have a guy who comes in here every few months and cleans it out,” he said. “But it’s an uphill battle.”
Invasive Australian pines line much of the shoreline, choking out native species. Brown standing water is everywhere. But an eagle also was perched on the tallest tree near the shoreline that faces out to the Atlantic.
If the eco-lodge project goes through, all the invasive trees, plants and species will be taken out. Natives will be planted. The mosquito trenches will be removed, and a system to restore the natural water flow will be put in place.
Only pervious pavement will be used. Water will be collected under it in channels, where it will run through plants that clean it before it’s discharged into the ground.
“This system is what eco tourists want to learn about,” Gentry said. “They are not just the people who go to a park or botanical garden.”
There will be solar power, cisterns to capture water, steam recovery on dishwater and other green measures. And, three types of fish that eat mosquito larvae will be stocked on the property.
“What we hope to do is make it a functional wetland again,” Donovan said. “I think the project we want to do would be a feather in the cap of Islamorada and really all of the Keys.”