A familiar recreational area set for a major facelift in the coming years is looking for Monroe County approval to its amended plan. The Big Pine Key swimming hole, located near Pine Channel Bridge, will eventually be transformed into what county officials describe as a park, with multiple amenities to the public. An updated design plan of the area with new minor changes is scheduled to go before the Monroe County Commission at its Wednesday meeting.
Chris Rivera, a project manager with the county, said a contract with Raleigh, N.C.-based Littlejohn Engineering Associates Inc. had to be renegotiated to include a restroom facility and sewer connection, among a few other small alterations, as part of the plan. It will cost an additional roughly $50,000, paid for, if approved, by the county’s 1-cent infrastructure sales tax.
In September 2014, the county agreed to work with the Florida Department of Transportation on design of the new Big Pine Key swimming hole area. The state department is providing a $100,000 grant for the project in the design phase and another $900,000 grant for construction. The county is matching the construction funds.
In April 2015, the county approved Littlejohn to the Big Pine Key Swimming hole amended design plan up for vote draw out a plan. Since that time, the company has been sketching out a design using the county’s input. Rivera said this should be the final plan for the project. Previously provided, a timeline for the redevelopment has it currently in the design phase, followed by permitting, which includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the county, for 12 to 18 months and then construction for six to eight months. Specific dates were not yet known.
According to the plans, the park will include a long boardwalk with overlook tower, pavilion, rental facility, kayak launch, swimming dock, picnic area, trails, information kiosk and 18-spot parking area, among a few other amenities. The roughly 1-acre area has been off limits to the public for several years. Doug Sposito, project management director for the county’s Public Works department and a Big Pine resident, said the county leased the property from the state Division of Recreation and Parks as part of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail in early 2015 but that it has been chained for much longer than that.
This is the second amendment to the proposed $156,000 design contract with Littlejohn. In October 2015, the county approved an additional $6,500 payment to the engineering firm for development of a land management plan to be included in the scope of the work. The meeting to take action on this most recent amendment is set for 9 a.m. Dec. 14 at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center, mile marker 102. It’s open to the public and can also be viewed via a live, and then archived, feed at monroecounty-fl.gov.