Balancing Tourism With Eco-Preservation On Islamorada

Jul 23, 2013

Abandoned mosquito trenches have gummed up the natural water flow on the land.
Credit Cammy Clarck/Miami Herald

A proposal to build an eco-friendly resort in the Upper Keys is raising questions about how to marry economic development and environmental preservation.

Coral Springs urologist Dr. Albert Vorstman owns eight acres of land in Islamorada along US-1 that Miami Herald reporter Cammy Clark described in a recent article:

The vacant land, whose neighbors include the Shell Shack and a CVS Pharmacy, has become a haven for vagrants and a dumping ground for trash. Non-native trees, plants and wildlife have run amok. A maze of abandoned mosquito trenches has ruined the natural water flow. Storm water drains into it from three sides. And it was the scene of an unsolved 1998 murder, in which a local chef was found in a ditch.

Despite that, according to Clark, Vorstman sees a lot of potential in sight. He has reached out to the Fort Lauderdale-based architecture and landscaping firm EDSA to create an eco-lodge on the land.

The plan is to restore and protect the delicate habitat while luring in tourists to pay big bucks for the chance to spend days immersing themselves in the real Florida Keys: hardwood hammocks, mangroves and natural shorelines.

EDSA is no stranger to this kind of development that balances tourism with environmental restoration and protection—in fact, it’s made a business out of it. EDSA has created over 38 eco-friendly resorts like this all over the world including Brazil, China and the Fiji Islands.

However, the project must jump several regulatory hurdles laid out by local and state government agencies to even get permitted, and some in Islamorada are skeptical of the idea that development is a means to save sensitive habitat.

To learn more about those hurdles and find out how much support the project has among Islamorada village leaders, read the full story from The Miami Herald