cruise ship docked at the Outer Mole across from barren Truman Waterfront in Key West, and another cruise ship in front of the Westin (cut off)
Distant in-law Ron of North Carolina replied to parts of yesterday’s Christmas hangover: batshit crazy shaman school, Florida Keys and beyond post:
BASH – Happy after Christmas season to you. Are you serious, KW does not allow the citizens access to the Outer Mole. That used to be one of my favorite spots. Hike out there from the Hyatt and hang out like I was on a deserted island. Walk over to the Fort and use the beach there for swimming…. I will tell you, that water is not all that warm in January and February, and not much better in early March.
I hope you and yours prosper in the New Year. When you have time, keep us posted on Christmas Tree Island and the plans for the Outer Mole. I fear that no news regarding those two issues is not good news.
Regards, Ron K.
The bait in the water, I bit:
Hi, Ron. Thanks, but this is one seriously rough Christmas season for me; the second roughest in my 70 years. Hope yours is going a lot better.
I was told about and started using the Outer Mole in September 2002. A bunch of us gathered at the little Truman Beach most mornings, and hung out sometimes through the day. About the only road traffic out there was Ed Swift’s Conch Trains ferrying cruise ship passengers into Old Town and back to the ship a few hours later. The Navy seemed okay with us being out there, except when a warship was in port, which was seldom, and we did not go out there then for the few days the ship was in port.
As I recall, civilians, except for Ed Swift’s Conch Trains and cruise ship passengers, stopped being allowed to go out there the next year, when there was some road work done by the City of Key West, as part of it taking over ownership of Truman Waterfront, which the Navy had given to the City, while at the last moment deciding not to give the City the Outer Mole for national security reasons. A fence and guard gate were put across the road, the entire area was fenced off with an expensive, heavy steel fence, all the way to the water next to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. At low tide, you still could walk into the Truman Waterfront area from the Park, but I heard stories of people who did it and were found in there getting a stiff tongue-lashing and worse. So I never did it.
I don’t know how long it went back that civilians were allowed to use the Outer Mole, but I think I read or heard that there was a time when it was off limits to civilians. I imagine the entire Truman Waterfront was off limits at one time, as the Park itself was Navy land originally, made from channel dredgings, as I recall. The Navy gave the land to the State of Florida for the Park, and much later gave more land to the City, which is Truman Waterfront. The Navy, I think, offered Truman Annex to the City, and the City declined and that’s how Pritam Singh ended up buying and upscale developing it, and also Tank Island, which now is Sunset Key, across a swift water channel from Wisteria Island, when the tide is running strong.
Last time I spoke with Naja Girard, maybe three weeks ago at a County Commission meeting in Marathon, she said the Department of the Interior is still holding fast to its ownership claim of Wisteria Island, which I still feel should belong to Key West and be turned into a day and night camping park serviced by a city ferry from Mallory Pier, all for a reasonable fee. I still think the Bernsteins, who say they own Wisteria Island, and their business partners, the Walshes, who own Sunset Key and the Westin next to Mallory Pier, and claim to own adjacent Admiral Cut, should get a nominal 99-year land lease from the City to put a 5-star resort on the Truman Waterfront part near the Westin, with the City gettting one percent of the resorts gross revenues. But Naja has never liked that outcome, nor have others in Key West, whom I thought would be wild for it. The only person there who was wild for it was Attorney Michael Halpern.
When I visited with Todd German and his lady Lesley on Christmas night, Todd said Truman Waterfront is dead in the water. All the commotion, all the proposals different interest groups came forth with, the City Commission’s Truman Waterfront Advisory Committee’s hard work, and it’s dead in the water about ten years after the Navy gave it to the City.
I had hoped the development of Bahama Village into its allocated part of Truman Waterfront would work out, for that looked like a really good thing for Bahama Village and the City. But it didn’t work out and its champion Bahama Conch Community Land Trust fell into disgrace under mismanagement and finally its Director Norma Jean Sawyer being convicted and sent to prison for embezzling the Trust’s funds.
The much vaunted senior citizen retirement center, billed as an assisted living facility, never got an inch off the ground either. I opposed that all along, and got plenty of flack for doing so. I opposed it all along because it clearly was going to be a rich folks waterfront retirement facility developed by a mainland developer and filled mostly with non-Key West elders, and the mainland developer would get the land for nothing for 99 years and the City would get little to nothing back.
Then, the Key West Spottswood family came up with the notion of putting a mega-yacht facility in the marina, without buying the land and waterfront, and without the Spottswoods being on the line for the financing, which would come from Tourist Development funds and other places, in exchange for which the Spottswoods would build a coliseum and big parking lot on about half of the remainder of the land, for concerts and whatever. Later, the Spottswoods brought in a partner who apparently had some muscle and know how with mega yacht harbors, but still I never saw them offer to take any serious financial risk, and it looked to me that if it came off and the mega yachts didn’t flock to Key West, the City would end up holding the bag. Same, if the rich folks retirement home got built and didn’t pan out. Then, it came out that the Navy didn’t like the mega yacht idea, and perhaps that was the end of it.
All in all, it looks to me that the City, in its frothing about, dodged several bullets. Hard to accept, though, that three mayors, Jimmy Weekley, Morgan McPherson and Craig Cates, and six city commissioners, some of whom are old hands, others newer hands, did not take the bull by the horns and just do something nice with Truman Waterfront, instead of letting various interest groups run the show. I would have raised bloody hell if I had been mayor, for the City Commission on which I sat, to at least build a nice public park on Truman Waterfront and let citizens resume use of the Outer Mole. I think there is a reverter clause in the Navy’s deed to the City of Key West, which allows the Navy to take back title to Truman Waterfront if the City does not use it as originally intended. Ten years is pretty good evidence that the City will not use it as intended, or at all.
I remember in 2003, I suggested the City put a homeless facility on Truman Waterfront. Later, I suggested the City let civilians build vegetable and flower gardens out there, like you see in European cities, using recycled city water the city ran around the area for gardeners to tap into. Gardeners would pay an annual fee for their plots. The City could get a lot of fresh produce in that way, instead of buying produce grown in south Florida, California and Mexico, which is transported, stored and then trucked down from Miami and Homestead. It could be beautiful out there, but right now it looks about like Tank Island looked before the Walshes turned it into Plastic Surgery (Sunset) Key, which is what they will do with Wisteria Island if they ever get the best of the Department of the Interior and then somehow get the County Commission and or the City of Key West to help them do the surgery.
Meanwhile, if they do develop out Truman Waterfront, where are they going to park the cars, trucks and boat trailers during the power boat races? I bet the owners of the marinas on the Atlantic side of Stock Island, which lies in Monroe County and not in Key West, might be tickled pink to have the testosterone boats bed down out there for the nights they are down here.
Well, you seem to have egged me back up on that rocky horse.
When I consider the possibility of running for mayor again, I tell the angels the idea is insane. I gave the city my best shot three times, and it didn’t even make a ripple. Whoever ends up mayor next year serves only one year as part of the transition to city elections all being held when national elections are held. I’d rather move back to Birmingham. Maybe there’s stuff there I need to do. What other reason could there be for the angels having me up goodmorningbirmingham.com a little over a year ago? Shut my mouth, I’ll do whatever the angels tell me to do.
Christmas night, Todd German said I should consider making provisions for my estate to go into an endowment set up to support Keys concerns. I said my estate is small. I said I want my place on Little Torch to remain natural, perhaps an environmental outfit would like to have it, set up an outpost for studying local lizards and other wildlife – it’s just across a dirt road from a state wildlife refuge. Perhaps Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden. I said if I had an estate, I’d like to see to it that homeless people got good shoes and clothes they need. Unfortunately, I said, many homeless people receive some kind of benefit check each month and spend it on their drug of choice, instead of on something they need. They have a soup kitchen and can get free medical treatment locally. If they want to try to return to mainstream, there is Florida Keys Outreach Coalition and Samuel House. I could see leaving money to FKOC, as I know its CEO Father Steve Braddock pretty well and I trust him to hold a true course.
Right now, though, I’m leaving everything to one person, who was given to me to look out for. It’s not much to leave, and if something doesn’t happen pretty soon, I’ll be a bum again, living in my car or on the street or in a homeless shelter. I ran for mayor of Key West the first time living in a FKOC shelter. Imagine the commotion an ex-lawyer living in the Monroe County Jail running for mayor would cause. In jail for sleeping in plain view. I wonder if they would let me out to attend candidate forums.
In case someone wonders how it came to this, the answer is I paid too much for this place on Little Torch, I gave away almost as much as I paid for this place on Little Torch, which combined was about 3/4 of the inheritance I received from my father in early 2006, and the rest I used to get by on.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association’s answer to Sandy Hook School-like massacres is to put armed guards everywhere in public. No surprise there. I still say the way to do it is to bring home all US military personnel and station them on guard in public places throughout America. Let trained killers who work for Uncle Sam, and not for the NRA, try to stop demonically-possessed killers in America. As a bonus, lots of men, women and children in other countries will not be massacred by America’s trained killers.
At the Uzbekistan restaurant on Kennedy Drive in Key West on Christmas Day, I learned high school graduates in Uzbekistan either go to college or into the military. No other choice. I suppose that’s a college or career ready country upon graduation from high school.
It remains to be seen if the folks in Washington D.C. will pass a responsible budget in the next few days, which they should have done instead of taking a Christmas break.
Little Torch Key