Back in February 2009 County Commissioner Heather Carruthers and City of Key West Commissioner Teri Johnston held a meeting for all interested residents and constituents on the state of county-owned Higgs Beach Park on the southern beach of Key West to seek solutions for improving the safety, beauty and use of Higgs Beach Park.
From that meeting a group of very dedicated community members representing stakeholders in the Park (children, environmental, neighbors, sports, dog park, garden club, concessions, law enforcement, City and County Public Works, Social Services, African Refuge and AIDS Memorial) met on a regular basis to determine priorities to reinvigorate the park. During this time a Ground Penetrating Radar Study was also performed to discern if, where and how many African Refuge Burials there are in the West Martello, Dog Park area.
From these meetings it was determined that Higgs Beach Park needed attention and renovation; for safety, convenience, historical and aesthetic reasons.
The parking lot is not to current code, with cars backing directly into traffic and into the path of bicyclists. Currently it is difficult to determine what is road and what is parking lot along the restaurant portion of Atlantic Blvd.
- Parents are concerned that children who are in the Astro City playground need to cross the busy street to access restrooms.
- Currently, the bike trail along the south side of the road requires cyclists to cross Atlantic Boulevard near West Martello and then cross back again if they wish to continue to bike along the beach.
- The road is dangerously close -- just five feet -- to the brick façade of the historic West Martello.
- Moving more activity to the beach side decreases the noise for the adjacent neighborhood.
- The road transgresses over historic gravesites.
- Moving the road increases that portion of the park that is considered “beach,” which opens up considerable options for funding through tourist impact fees (TDC regulated funds including the Special Higgs Beach Fund) rather than ad valorem taxes.
- Renovation of the road provides for commuter bike lanes as well as scenic paths keeping with the City’s goal of becoming a friendlier and safer cycling community.