This is a cooperative project between the City of Key West and Reef Relief to create a swim lane on the south side of the island from the shoreline out 600 feet, from a point near the White Street Pier, westward to a point near the foot of Duval Street. This zone is marked by demarcation buoys. Motorized vessels prohibited from entering the swim lane, however two entry lanes have been established for continued access to the shore by vessels. The existing channel, marking the entry to the Casa Marina Docks is one of the entry lanes. The location of the second entry lane is the Reach beach. The exact position of the swim zone demarcation buoys and entry lanes was established in cooperation with the commercial boat companies and property owners in this area. All upland property owners support the park's creation.
Considerations were made for people who fish from the White Street Pier. It is important to keep swimmers and snorkelers away from fishing gear.
Sedimentation is one of the biggest threats to coral. Visibility has been relatively poor in this area over the past few years primarily because of sedimentation caused by land-based runoff. The purpose of establishing a near-shore Marine Park is to enhance our focus on water quality problems that we have the ability to eliminate.
The City of Key West has rebuilt the White Street Pier reducing sediment build-up, replaced all of the sewer lines in the City, eliminating the sewage outfall and we are scheduled to re-plumb storm water runoff drains through out the island. There is no other developed island in the Caribbean and possibly the world that has rebuilt their infrastructure as we have. Without a doubt our near-shore water quality will improve.
Description of the Park
The area of the Marine Park is typical of many tourist destinations in the Caribbean where swimmers, snorkelers, jet skis, para sails and fishermen share the same body of water. Swimmers are often put at risk because there is no safe haven free from motorized vessels, especially jet skis. Designating areas 'swim only' zones and demarking those areas with buoys is the most common way of dealing with the conflict between boaters and swimmers. Demarcation buoys have been installed, creating swim lanes and two vessel access lanes.
The designation of two well-marked entry lanes for vessels to approach shore allows the current boating activity to continue. Motorized vessels approach shore inside of these entry lanes at idle speed. Abundant space would be allocated near the Casa marina Dock to provide safe maneuvering and docking. Designated swim areas are preferred by boat captains who do not like to navigate around free-roaming swimmers while approaching shore.
Establishing the Key West Marine Park as a voluntary no harvest zone enhances the experience for those who snorkel in the park and also provides a protected habitat for fish. The White Street Pier is not included within the boundaries of the park to allow fishing activities on the pier to continue. Reef Relief is seeking permits to establish fish habitats within the area of the Park. Natural reef habitats composed of limestone boulders provide habitat for various species of fish and also provide hard substrate for corals to attach to. Fish habitats would provide anglers with increased catches on nearby fishing piers as the fish mature and migrate out of the protected area. These habitats would be strategically placed, away from the marked boat entry lanes, to attract snorkelers away from the vessel traffic.