1988 aerial photograph of what was to be Port Bougainville.

Dredging and filling was rampant in the Keys in the early-1970s. In order to control the local government’s lack of ability or desire to control development, on April 15, 1975, the Florida Keys became an Area of Critical State Concern(ACSC), which was supposed to prevent the Keys from becoming a ‘concrete jungle’.

In 1982, the Department of Community Affairs(DCA) had a consultant prepare the “Inpact Analysis of Florida Keys Critical Area Designation” study, a 300-page report that provided information that everyone already know. As in the 1930s prohibition days, the Keys ignored it.

In 1983 the DCA threatened a state take-over for all new development and it development a management plan. The county countered that the state had not provided the necessary funds to development a land use map. Slowly but surely, both sides began to compromise. Regardless of their efforts, it was not very effective since by 1984, at least 51 new developments were in process but not approved. The Miami Herald did a series of exposes on the rapid growth, estimating that North Key Largo alone would house 25,000 to 45,000 people.

Today, most of the projects are now forgotten, leaving behind only small remnants. One of the larger projects during the 1970s was the North Key Largo Yacht Club, also known as Solarelle. The project was approved in 1974 before the Keys became an ACSC, therefore it had certain rights. In 1980, Fritz Sharenberg took over the project and renamed it Port Bougainville, which we know it as today. Under the new development order, 2806 units were to be constructed.

The Monroe County Grand Jury and environmentalist groups tried to derail the construction, with no such luck. In July 1984, the Continental Illinois and Trust called in the $54 million construction loan in default, which was originally a $180 million line of credit, causing construction to be halted. Sharenberg filed a counter-suit for $300 million and the project was placed in receivership to control day to day functions.

Today, portions of North Key Largo are being purchased for conservation by the government. Only remnants of the past projects in the area remain, a handful of buildings left behind for nature to sort out.


  1. Going to the Keys in a cpl monts, might have to make a stop. Thanks for sharing.

    • While you’re in the Keys, might wanna check out the missile bases in that area as well

  2. Just went there today. You would not believe the growth since these pics. I have been there numerous times and Mother Nature is certainly taking her toll. It is beautiful. Really wished people wouldn’t trash it. :(

  3. I lived by there in the late 80’s (up the road on Ocean Dr.). We used to fish in the port there sometimes. Back then you could still walk on some of the piers. A lot of the original buildings and roads were still in decent shape. Was pretty creepy exploring, lot of weird stuff went on back there which I guess is why the state stepped in. Spent lots of days exploring and partying back there with friends. Thanks for your pics!

    • I worked at port bougainville in 1982 I was security dennis dad worked their grand opening I was There also so I must have knowned him.What kind of work did he do

  4. My dad worked there when it had one of its pre-grand openings. I remember going and seeing the people excited about what this place was going to be. It had a carnival feel with all the decorations and balloons. After they shut down construction we use to go back there explore, play war games, and fish. Great memories of growing up in Key Largo.

  5. The site is still open as Dagny Johnson State Park and they have opened up a trail through the back areas about a year or so ago (the areas that used to be closed off unless you had a permit) where the buildings and marina used to be. There is very little by way of buildings remaining, and the marina has been filled in, all but the long entrance canal. The entrance archway, roads and the concrete tunnel are still there, but that’s about it. They seem to have a desire to return it to it’s original state, pre-development and must be spending considerable money to do it.

  6. Terry Marcellin-Little

    Back in 1983, I sailed on a 3-masted schooner owned by Fritz Sharenberg, which was re-named the Port Bougainville. Originally a minesweeper, she was rigged up into a “tall ship” over in England and Portugal. Honestly, I became quickly aware that she was being used as a floating real estate yacht, hosting parties up and down the east coast, but initially I had no idea that the true purpose was to rape Key Largo. I developed suspicions, over time. All I wanted to do, personally, was to sail the seven seas in the manner of past mariners, Captain Jack included. I signed on as a deckhand, but never really earned by dreadlocks or made it past the Atlantic. Truth be told, the one date with Fritz’s nephew (that they talked me into) didn’t work out very well, either. I kept my feet on the deck, but left that ship in Miami, and was told that she sank off St. John, where she was registered, shortly thereafter. Highly suspicious fire, if you ask me. I’m very glad that Mother Nature has her say on Key Largo these days. I’m truly sorry if I contributed to any disrespect.of the ecology in that area. I guess I should visit the Keys with my kids one day soon, but the North Carolina coast, my home state, is very hard to part with… Terry M-L

  7. I LOVE the keys…. and reading this I noticed that the date, April 15, 1975 :
    April 15, 1975, the Florida Keys became an Area of Critical State Concern(ACSC), which was supposed to prevent the Keys from becoming a ‘concrete jungle’.

    thats the day I was born :)

  8. The photo of the interior of the large building was the sales office. It had a giant atrium with a large tree in the center, with wooden decorative framing suspended by chains, and the surrounding perimeter was offices two steps higher walled off by sliding glass doors. The structure is still standing, but is hidden about 100′ from the trail

    • I actually have 2 of the original framed mock up illustrations that hung in the sales office. I have tried to find out if there is a place to post them or if there is a historical group that would be interested in them.

  9. Wow! I just came across this on the internet and it really brought back old memories. I used to work on this project, back in the early 80’s I was part of the construction crew that worked there. It was the very beginning of my career in construction. I remember getting out of my ’66 Stang just after break of dawn, after sitting in it waiting for the bug spray car to make the rounds (you didn’t want to leave the safety of your car until the bus sized mosquitoes had been coated), and then just had one of my crew tell me that the job was closed. I replied “closed…what do you mean closed…you mean an accident or something happened?”… and he said… “No, the banks and the environmentalists happened. I guess we are out of a job”. I was just out of high school and I would drive to that place everyday at 4:30am from my home in Westchester just to make a little money, for a hard day of work. I guess some things don’t change. I think the General Contractor was Metric Constructors or Metric Engineers. It’s been a long time.

  10. Jeffrey M Doyle, PhD

    Florida Keys_Land Use Regulations, The Environment and Economics_Published Post

    By Jeffrey M Doyle, Ph.D
    Director of Planning, Building and Zoning
    Florida Keys Area of Critical State Concern
    January 1980-March 1985
    Monroe County
    Key West, Florida

  11. Just came out of a full day of exploring this beauty and happy to say the land is most definitely reclaiming the concrete and asphalt to give back what belongs to Mother Nature. 20 years living here and this place is a crown jewel for nature lovers.