- A well-known South Florida environmental activist, Mary Barley, attempted to block public access to a taxpayer-funded path to an Islamorada beach using trash cans and fencing as obstacles.
- After failing to convince the Village of Islamorada to give her the property, village officials ordered a work crew, protected by a deputy sheriff, to dismantle the illegal barricades.
- The city still had to install a concrete barrier to protect the public from a propane tank Barley installed along the public road.
- To try to obtain the property for herself, Barley has waged a protracted legal battle with the Village of Islamorada for more than 16 years. One lawsuit is still pending.
For years, environmental activist Mary Barley has advocated for public funds for the Everglades, which flows into Florida Bay. But lately she’s been working overtime to block the public from seeing it. At least not from the public road in front of her oceanfront home overlooking the bay.
“Private property” and “keep out” signs, a dozen trash cans, wood barriers and chain-link fencing recently blocked access to Florida Bay and looked, to pedestrians, about as unwelcoming as they were intended. The obstacles, placed intentionally by Barley to discourage foot and vehicle traffic, blocked public access to Florida Bay in the Village of Islamorada in the Florida Keys. According to media reports, Barley owns three properties along the road.
Over sixteen years, Barley has attempted to seize the public road as her own, filing lawsuits against her tiny town in the Florida Keys. She’s lost in the courts both times. More recently, she even offered a “trade” of sorts with the Village of Islamorada, offering a small parcel of land – without beach access – in exchange for the prime Florida Bay access road belonging to the public. When that effort also failed, Barley attempted to claim the land as her own anyway, through the use of the barricades. Channel 7 TV News in Miami reported she has since filed new legal documents claiming that the fencing, rocks, signs and other barricades constitute “improvements” that legally grant her control over the property.
For now, at least, the Village of Islamorada appears to have won the fight and successfully preserved oceanfront access for its citizens. But not before they had to call in a Monroe County Deputy Sheriff, a work crew, and a forklift to remove Barley’s obstacles. Village officials even had to order up the installation of a massive concrete barrier to shield the public from a propane gas tank hazard Barley had installed adjacent to the road. Village personnel couldn’t remove it immediately, so they put the barricade up to prevent cars from accidentally hitting the tank and causing it to explode.
Barley is known for her years-long efforts fighting for public funds for the Everglades ecosystem. But court records and media reports show she’s at least as active in protecting her own property, even if she has to illegally annex roads belonging to the public.
When asked about the incident by a local TV crew, one local resident recalled a recent confrontation with Barley while trying to use the road.
“I got back about here and the lady (Barley) came out and started yelling at me that I couldn’t be here, and I had to get off the property, that I’m trespassing,” John Coiffi told Channel 7 News in Miami.
Like many others, Coiffi was confused by the “no trespassing” and “private” signs placed outside Barley’s home. Despite multiple court rulings establishing the land as public property, Barley had defied the court decisions for over 16 years.
But the fight appears over. At least for now.