Sunday, June 06, 2004

A Walk in the Park

We rode on bicycles -- well on one bicycle and one tricycle, to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park today. It's $1.50 a person on bicycles or walking, and $3.50/person in a car or on a motorcycle, with a sliding scale for more than one person, e.g., 2 for $6.00, 3 for $8.00, etc. It is really one of the best beaches in all of Key West because its a combination of sandy beaches and shady picnic groves.

We watched the Disney Magic come into port, past the dredge and barge that are deepening the channel, and sail up to the Hilton Pier to berth. The city is having a little angst over a recent decision by Carnival Cruise Lines to bypass Key West while the outer mole berth is unavailable. They were having to bring passengers ashore by motor launch and were finding that their customers didn't particularly care to go through the rigamarole of getting to and from shore. They only stay in port for a few hours. The time it takes to get in and out of town left passengers precious little time to experience the delights of Duval Street and the Shell Market. Officials are putting on a brave front over the loss of revenue, saying that it's been anticipated in their budgeting for the period when dredging is going on. The fact that its being discussed at all shows how dependent the city is on cruise ships, not to mention the businesses that rely on cruise ship people.

There's a sub-economy here based on servicing ships crew who come ashore during the ship's stay here. For example, there are several places, T-shirt shops and convenience stores that supply telephone services to crew who get to call home (wherever that might be) at cheap rates while here.

One reason for going to Ft. Zach today was to get a close-up look at the controversy over removing non-native pines that provide shade and a nice carpet of needles in the picnic areas, and replacing them with native species of trees and plants. There was supposed to be an organized protest going on, but we never found it. Instead, we took part in a little outdoor church service with a friend and two of her friends, a discussion about beliefs and how they affect the way we live. Spiritual topic, spiritual place. We met John, who works on a boat out at Fisherman's Row, and Phil who works at Jabours Trailer Park. Found out that Jabours is closing to new campers tomorrow, and should be empty of all guests in a week or two.

I don't think that Watermark, the development slated for the site has all of its approvals yet, but they have put out a slick brochure with an artist's rendering of what the place might look like. They show Schooner Wharf as a sterile-looking, upscale kind of place between the complex of four three-story buildings built above a parking area. Watermark is a joint venture of the Bella Vista Group, Inc, "a paramount Florida developer known for quality standards in exceptional waterfront retreats", and Cortex Companies, "a team of Key West natives who bring to their island a vision of life as it should be with luxury lifestyle condominium developments." Starting in the mid- $1 millions. Someone told me that all thirty-two units are spoken for with deposits. It wouldn't surprise me.

One of my friends believes that what's happening right now is that Key West is being bought up by wealthy people, people to whom paying upwards of several millions of dollars for a second home in Key West or in the Keys is both an affordable lifestyle choice and a good investment. That view is consistent with what's going on in the real estate market here which seems to have no top. Almost anyone here will tell you that you ought to buy something, anything, if you can possibly afford it. They even have us thinking about it, though I doubt that's what we'll do.

Enough today. I have to bring Janet's rented tricycle back to the Bicycle Medic on Truman Avenue by 4:45, then we're geeting together with Ri and Sandy, who we haven't seen for a couple of years, for a little cookout. Mmm-mm-mm!

Good day today.

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