The Islamorada Village Council is exploring the possibility of restoring the oceanside beach around mile marker 75. This is Sea Oats Beach, an area that historically has been a strip of sand dunes and sea oats along the side of U.S. 1. I think that this is a very important project, and not just because it would restore a beautiful stretch of natural beach along the shoreline of Islamorada.
We all know that that narrow strip of U.S. 1 that extends from the mainland to Key West is the lifeline of the Keys. Breaking that line, even temporarily because of an accident, a road race, a stuck bridge, a bicycle tour, a motorcycle event or even a strong windstorm often causes long waits.
Now pull up Google Earth and take a cyber-tour all the way down U.S. 1. The vulnerability of this narrow line of highway, more than most any other area of the Keys, is readily apparent. Take a good look at the Sea Oats Beach area on Lower Matecumbe.
The shoreline curves in from the ocean at that point. There are large sand deposits just offshore. There are no extensive shallow areas just offshore (as there are for most areas of the Keys); the deep offshore water funnels in toward the shore line at that point. The edge of U.S. 1 is only a few feet from the water's edge, there is a deep basin and a complex of deep canals right on the bayside of that stretch, and even when tropical storms target this area, U.S. 1 becomes impassable because of large sand deposits on this stretch of road.
If a significant hurricane should hit this area, a complete washout of U.S. 1 would not be unthinkable.
We should not just pump in sand to create a flat, sloping beach as they do along the east and west coasts of the state. For adequate storm protection, sand dunes stabilized with sea oats should be created, as it was only 20 or so years ago, and if protection of U.S. 1, is the priority, then mangroves and buttonwoods should also be planted along the shoreline.
Although the idea of a pleasant stretch of public beach may be nice, this is not the place for such a feature. The narrow road and close proximity of the highway make such a development quite dangerous for beach goers and traffic.