The towering hurricane monument at mile marker 81.8 could soon be the recipient of an expansion effort. Islamorada’s Historic Preservation Commission is interested in enlarging the lesser-used back area of the Florida Keys Memorial to attract more visitors there. “For starters, we want to erect a large map,” commission Vice Chair Barbara Edgar told the Free Press. The commission, chaired by Michael Bier, would also like to add more specific information on new, larger walls about those memorialized at the site.
Currently, this open area of the hurricane monument displays only two informational placards and offers a couple of benches. Both placards, paid for through a 2008 grant, tell of the significance of the monument The monument was dedicated in 1937 before roughly 4,000 people. It commemorates the devastation of the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, which took the lives of hundreds of military veterans working on a highway project as well as local residents.
The Historic Preservation Commission is set to discuss the proposed upgrades at its March 18 meeting before bringing a formal recommendation, including a price tag, to the council. If given the OK, the commission would likely need to secure grant money, unless the council offers to cover the full cost. “Anything that preserves the rich history of Islamorada, and add the possibility of grant funds available, is a win-win for our community,” Village Councilman Mike Forster said. Aside from the monument, Edgar said the commission has also considered redoing the four informational placards found at the red caboose at mile marker 82.6, bayside. There, the former home of the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce, visitors can peruse a small area while learning about the old Over-Sea Railroad, the early settlers of Upper Matecumbe Key and other local history. “They’re all in very bad condition,” Edgar said.
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