$1.3M awarded to Marathon for infrastructure as DeSantis stumps for new Johnny Morris resort

Funds will help create around 500 jobs, DeSantis says

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Marathon on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

MARATHON, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Friday in Marathon where he discussed the disbursement of $1.3 million to the city from Florida’s Job Growth Grant Fund, awarded for infrastructure improvements.

“This will allow the city to do the following things: Widen US-1 — of course, the main road through Marathon, also known as Overseas Highway — add a turn lane at the intersection of US-1 and Banana Boulevard... and add utility infrastructure along US-1, including nearly a mile of new sewer lines, increasing the wastewater capacity for the entire system on Marathon,” DeSantis said.

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The governor said the funding would help create around 500 new jobs and foster an economic impact of $3 million in the region.

Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, was invited to speak at the event. Much of the conference was spent discussing Morris’ intent to open a new, fishing-based Johnny Morris Nature Resort on Valhalla Island.

“With our investments in infrastructure and the environment, Bass Pro founder and CEO Johnny Morris will be able to bring an exciting world-class fishing resort right here to Marathon, and this new expansion will bring jobs, restaurant, entertainment,” DeSantis said.

According to an article written by Ryan McCarthy for the Florida Keys Keynoter, Morris has owned many land parcels on Valhalla Island for decades. Referencing a story by Sara Matthis, published in Keys Weekly, Marathon’s planning board voted 4-1 last April to deny Morris’ proposal for the resort, yet some board members noted they were impressed with the project. In June 2021, the Marathon City Council unanimously approved a development plan for the resort, according to a follow-up article from Matthis.

At the conference Friday, Morris expressed his excitement and further previewed his intentions on Valhalla Island.

“This isn’t just an overnight thing, it isn’t just about, you know, something to make money as a resort developer. This project has a lot to do with passion. We’ve owned part of this island for, like, going back over 30 years, and the Keys is a treasure, this piece of land is a treasure, and we want to treat it that way and keep it that way and have a place where people can come and enjoy fishing, enjoy the nature and kids learn about more about this beautiful environment and how to take care of it,” Morris said.

Morris asked Mahoney Capital LLC President Tim Mahoney on stage to further discuss the resort’s potential community impacts.

“Our intention is to keep this as a nature-based resort. In addition to that, we’ll be creating employment here for over 300 people on a full-time basis, and that will fluctuate seasonally to up to 500 people depending on our activity. It’s fishing-based, we’ll have charter fishing that we’ll be working with our local guides and community in the local community to be participant and helping our guests get the Florida Keys experience, and in support of our employment that we’re creating, we’ve created between 85 and 90 workforce housing units that will house employees in this area,” Mahoney said.

According to Mahoney, the resort is planned to include 110 cottage-style units, a small lodge building, restaurants, and spa and fitness facilities. Guests’ vehicles would be parked at a distance, with only service ATVs allowed on the main side of the property, Mahoney said.

Mahoney invited listeners to return in two years to see the completed project.

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About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.