Key West has now leased Simonton Beach to a private operator in the hope that private enterprise can reestablish a successful public facility. The beach itself will remain free and open to the public as outlined in the lease.
The restrooms are scheduled to be opened soon and a ticket booth for beach toys and tour rides has been approved. Part of the lease also proposed beer and wine sales on site. The new operators say there will be no jet ski operation at the beach.
Simonton Beach is the only remaining free and public beach and ocean access to gulfside waters in Key West, but has been neglected as of late. Thirty years ago the city had agreed to sell the 88-foot wide beach to the Pier House. Public outcry stopped the sale, and volunteers including current Last Stand members assisted in finding state funds and local contributions to help the city rehabilitate the area with plantings, public restrooms and a new boat ramp.
Simonton Beach is a favorite for locals. It is a place to watch the sunset, free from the hustle/bustle of Mallory Dock, and the best place to cool off in summer heat due to its tidal currents and deep water. But a lack of maintenance and security over the years allowed the restrooms to be repeatedly vandalized and finally boarded up in 2011. Homeless persons and drunks frequented the area, discouraging family use, and commercial activities such as jet ski refueling changed the atmosphere.
Last Stand is in contact with the new operators, and will continue to encourage the city to restore and maintain this public property. Simonton Beach should qualify for Tourist Development Funds, and Last Stand will support efforts to secure funding for this unique location.
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