Between the island of Upper Matecumbe and Lower Matecumbe there are narrow land masses referred to as "fills" along with four bridges …. with U.S. One and its right of way running down the center.... referred to as "The Fills." It lies within the boundaries of the Village of Islamorada but is controlled by several entities. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is responsible for the highway and its right of way.
The bike path on the fills is part of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail... part of the Florida State Park system.
This two plus mile stretch of the "Scenic Highway" has long been considered one of the most beautiful locations in the Florida Keys. Indian Key and Alligator Light are visible on the ocean side and Lignumvitae Key and dots of small distant islands on the Bay side... all nestled in spectacular blue green seas. This is a special place to see the sunrise in the morning and sunset at night. And there is so much history here... (Click here to see how it used to be)
"The Fills" are heavily used by folks from the mainland coming down on weekends to enjoy the views and the water. Sometimes the oceanfront area closest to Lower Matecumbe has had so many vehicles, people, and tents, there's hardly room to walk.
On the bay side there is an unpaved boat ramp that is extremely popular on weekends as well... with little spare room with so many cars and trailers wedged into the limited parking areas.
The entire area of the Fills is in need of some serious maintenance - and that was true long before Hurricane Irma came to town in September of 2017. There have been public meetings with the Department of Transportation to discuss what should be done to some of the contentious areas. Some local folks believe we should welcome as many visitors as possible while others believe there should be strict limitations.
See the story about one of the public meetings from December of 2016: (Click here)
The Fill - 5/27/2017 article Click here
Many local residents have long worried about the damage to the environment, the mounds of trash left behind, and the traffic hazards that result. What? All day visitors and no restrooms! In recent years the erosion issues have been significant especially along the ocean where the old seawall is crumbling into the water.
Others believe the large crowds using the Fills on weekends must surely be a windfall of sorts for our economy. And as residents or guests of the state of Florida, they have every right to enjoy the Florida Keys.
While plans to do something have been discussed with FDOT for years and years, no progress is evident yet, though there is a project to begin November 2018 on FDOT's schedule, perhaps simply a landscaping project? However, FDOT has not been good at communicating with Islamorada since Hurricane Irma. (Click here for more details)
In the months following Hurricane Irma, photos and design plans did get posted on FDOT's website. The photos show the deep embankment just off the pavement of U.S. One created by Hurricane Irma. The ragged embankmentthat makes vehicular access to the area impossible. As a result, many weekend visitors now park on the bike path that runs along the highway. The bike path was severely damaged as well. Areas thick with mangroves or buttonwood close to the shoreline did better but hinder ocean access by visitors and obstruct the gorgeous view.