Miami Beach Considering Closure of Flagler Monument Island to Public

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Miami Beach Considering Closure of Flagler Monument Island to Public:

Island has become a “party destination,” city says

Updated June 26, 7:00 am

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber who has previously expressed concerns about the party atmosphere around Monument Island in Biscayne Bay is sponsoring legislation to close the island to the public. Formally known as Flagler Memorial or Flagler Monument Island, the uninhabited artificial island was deeded to the City in 1939. It contains a 110-ft tall obelisk dating back to the 1920s that honors industrialist Henry M. Flagler who is known for his development of the east coast of Florida and building the Florida East Coast Railway.

“Regrettably, over the years, the island has developed a reputation as a party destination for boaters, illegal charters, and jet skiers whose gatherings often result in loud noise, trash and illegal activities on the island,” City Manager Alina Hudak wrote in a memo to Commissioners.

The legislation which will be up for first reading on Wednesday notes in its “whereas” clauses that “Monument Island, and the corresponding designated watersports zone in the vicinity of the island has attracted an extensive amount of people, creating excessive noise and nuisance, adversely impacting quality of life of residents in the surrounding area, including residents along West Avenue, Belle Isle, the Venetian Islands, Hibiscus Island, and Star Island.”

Citing “debauchery on personal boats, tourist boats, personal watercraft, and on the island itself” and the proliferation of “alcohol consumption, drug use, and general reckless activities” on the island and in the designated watersports area surrounding it, along with the lack of any regulatory or law enforcement presence on the uninhabited island to act as oversight, the ordinance declares it is “in the best interest in the health, welfare, and general well-being of the public to close access to the Monument Island.”

The Marine and Waterfront Protection Authority Board made a recommendation in April to close the island to all motorized vessels and included a request “that the island and immediate surrounding waters be designated as a non-motorized boat zone with access to the island limited to official City of Miami Beach vessels for safety and upkeep of the area.” That recommendation is on the agenda as a discussion item. [Update: The discussion item has been withdrawn prior to the meeting.]

Item R5R to close Flagler Monument Island to the public and prohibit public access is up for first reading. Details here.

Discussion item R9M regarding the Waterfront Protection Authority Board’s motion is here. [Update June 23: Item withdrawn.]

Update June 26: During the morning Sutnik public forum at Wednesday’s Commission meeting, several kayakers and paddle boarders expressed an understanding of the issues created by boaters on and around the island but asked Commissioners to consider allowing access for non-motorized recreation activities. At the meeting, Gelber said “after talking to a few people,” he decided to refer the item to the Commission’s Neighborhoods and Quality of Life Committee for further discussion. 

Photo: Monument Island at left, Memorial Day Weekend 2021

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