The heart of the Florida Keys is beating once again.
The “Old Seven” pedestrian bridge is open once again. It’s a two-mile stretch of the old Seven Mile Bridge, from Marathon to Pigeon Key, which has been closed for reconstruction for the past five years.
“It really is more of a linear park where people can come out and recreate, go biking, walking, cycling, running, take a look at all the marine resources, whether it be spotting turtles, sharks, rays, tarpon, it’s just an unbelievable experience,” said Kelly McKinnon of the Pigeon Key Foundation, which lobbied hard for the span to be renovated.
“It’s such an emotional thing, especially for so many residents,” added former Marathon mayor, George Nugent, when he spoke to NBC 6 during the construction phase of the project.
New York has the Highline, Miami has the Underline, but the Florida Keys might top all of them with this ribbon of magnificence bisecting the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
The locals waited patiently during the renovation work, which was not a simple job, to say the least.
“What made the project challenging is that it is a historic bridge and we had to restore the bridge to the same aesthetic fabric as the original,” said construction manager Tony Sabbag.
Henry Flagler opened the original bridge for his railroad to Key West in 1912, and it was converted to a highway in 1938. In the 1980’s, the state turned the portion from Marathon to Pigeon Key into a pedestrian bridge, but condemned it as unsafe five years ago. Now that it’s back, better than ever, residents are loving it.
“This is something I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time and I’m happy to share my moment with you,” said Atul Kumar, who told us he took a bus from Key West to experience the bridge today.
“I missed it so much, to see the wildlife, sea life in the water, it’s just, my heart feels really good right now, that’s all I can say,” said Sandy Thierolf, who lives nearby in Marathon.
“It’s gorgeous, I love the surface, it’s beautiful, they did a great job,” said local resident Margo Murray.
The project price tag was about $77 million. Money well-invested, according to just about everyone you speak to in the Keys.
“Oh, it doesn’t get any better!” Thierolf said.
No argument here.