City wants $125,000 from the TDC to stabilize Coco Plum Beach

Coco Plum Beach is filled with seaweed.
Coco Plum Beach is filled with seaweed.

The city of Marathon hopes to restore Coco Plum Beach with funding from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

TDC office manager Maxine Pacini said the city applied for $125,000 for a shoreline restoration and stabilization project before Nov. 17, the deadline for entities to get a piece of the TDC's $893,128 set-aside for capital projects.

The TDC's District 3 Advisory Council (Middle Keys) is expected to decide at its Jan. 13 meeting at the Hyatt Place Faro Blanco Marine Resort & Yacht Club in Marathon whether to allocate the funds. The session starts at 9:30 a.m.

Deputy City Manager George Garrett said should the DAC approve the funding, part of the $125,000 would be used to hire an engineering firm to do an assessment of the beach and provide recommendations how to stabilize it.

"There's a lot of erosion, we're losing beach sand," Garrett said. "It's manmade and the natural forces are taking it back to how it was."

Sea turtle nests on the beach put restrictions on what the city can do. Under state law, it is illegal to disturb or take sea turtle nests. Sea turtle habitats are also protected.

Garrett said part of the TDC funding could be used to do a separate assessment of how to repair the beach without disturbing turtle nesting.

Kevin Carte, property manager at Royal Plum Condos in the Coco Plum area, said he's walked the beach with Garrett, City Manager Mike Puto and Engineering Director Carlos Solis multiple times during the past year, stressing the need to revitalize the beach.

"In 2011, new sand was put in. It was an expansive, beautiful beach that tourists and locals would flock to," Carte said. "It's eroded terrible since then. The overgrowth coming out of the wetlands is turning into a jungle."

Carte believes putting in more jetties could break up waves and curb the erosion.

"For the 7,800 feet of beach at Coco Plum, there's only two jetties, one at each end," Carte said. "Key Colony Beach has 4,500 feet of beach with 12 jetties. That's why it keeps its sand."

One possible plan Garrett sees happening to help stabilize the beach is putting the seaweed below the sand.

"Most dunes in the Keys are natural. When the seaweed comes up, wave action builds up the dunes," Garrett said. "Seaweed now goes to the dump. That to me is not desirable."