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Bass Pro Shops founder plans Marathon fishing resort (Florida Keys Keynoter, (Marathon, Fla.))

By Ryan McCarthy, Florida Keys Keynoter, (Marathon, Fla.)McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

April 20--Bass Pro Shops founder and owner John Morris has reportedly bought all but one residential parcel on Marathon's Valhalla Island in hopes of building a resort or kids fishing camp of some kind.

"I know he's planning a really cool, very detailed, authentic fishing kind of resort," Mike Dunham, Morris' property manager, told the Keynoter. "I think the final style design is in process, but I do know the accommodations would be very nice and it would have a lot of activities and amenities besides the fishing opportunities."

Dunham said Morris has owned the majority of the land on Valhalla for 25 years and acquired the Valhalla Point Resort and Valhalla Beach Hotel & Resort at the end of last year. Both properties are now closed.

"We're assessing the most viable options for the property. [Morris has] considered a fishing retreat, a resort for fisherman, or a camp for kids and outdoor education. His real goal is to connect people to fishing and nature," Dunham said. "We're doing some work to clean up the property and will probably be developing a final plan in the near future."

City Planning Director George Garrett said he's met with Morris and Upper Keys attorney Nick Mulick, who represents Morris, about preliminary plans for a resort.

Mulick said Morris' plans for now are to clean up the recently acquired hotel properties and that any resort design is not imminent. The entire U.S. 1 frontage at mile marker 56.5 just recently was covered with new mulch.

"We're trying to make sure the property is something that everyone would prefer it to look like," he said. "There's no site or conceptual plan. There's just tossing ideas around of the best way to use the site."

Mulick points out that the existing motel properties on the island were "mom-and-pop" establishments and that Morris would likely plan something larger in scale.

If the Bass Pro Shops brand -- including the World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada -- is any indication, that could be the case. The fishing, hunting, camping and outdoor goods giant is well known for its spacious retail locations.

"To me, a resort is something a little more than having a place to stay and swim in the water. Knowing John Morris, whatever he does is first class," Mulick said.

Dunham said it's unclear how the resort or camp would be laid out, but was clear that waterfront parcels are most likely.

"Certainly the oceanfront property and the property on the canal is the most premier and buildable property. The others would be used to promote nature, and some portions aren't buildable," he said.


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