One week after Irma, Big Pine Key residents return and start to rebuild
“Where’s the beach?” is one of the most commonly asked questions tourists ask when they come to the Florida Keys.
You’d expect to find a good one anywhere in the Keys. But, despite the water everywhere, there are few natural sandy beaches along the 125-mile long archipelago.
Most of the Keys waterfront that isn’t developed is lined with mangroves and coral rock.
Then there is Anne’s Beach on Lower Matecumbe Key in Islamorada.
Like most South Florida beaches, if you’re looking for waves, Anne’s Beach isn’t for you — although it is a popular kite-surfing spot.
But if you want to spend the day in shallow, crystal clear, warm water in an almost stereotypical tropical setting, Anne’s Beach has it covered. There’s also a boardwalk and trails, as well as covered picnic areas.
But the beach has been closed since Hurricane Irma trounced the Keys in September 2017.
The Category 4 storm created a huge ocean-side surge that destroyed much of the Atlantic waterfront properties in the four-island Village of Islamorada, including everything that was man-made on Anne’s Beach. The boardwalk that wended its way through the nearly quarter-mile wooded area in between the parking lots was washed away.
So were the bathrooms. And the parking lots were damaged.
Earlier in the year, before Irma, the five-member Islamorada Village Council had approved $1.2 million to replace the aging boardwalk. Irma took care of the razing part before construction crews got their chance.
Village staff members said this week the project is scheduled to be completed sometime this summer. Crews this week were busy building not only the boardwalk, but also new pavilions, new bathrooms, and the parking lot.
“The specific date is undetermined,” said Hank Flores, senior planner with the villages planning department.
The total cost of the project is $1,514,765, he said.