Florida Keys’ Old Seven Mile Bridge has been named one of three global 2022 Phoenix Awards winners by the Society of American Travel Writers. Restoration of a 2.2-mile span of the bridge, creating a linear recreational park stretching over the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, was honored as a sustainable and cultural tourism initiative.
Winners were announced late Saturday, Sept. 10, during the SATW 2022 Convention in Bogota, Colombia.
SATW's Phoenix Awards recognize and honor destinations that showcase responsible, sustainable tourism including conservation, preservation, beautification and antipollution efforts relating to travel. Awardees may be individuals, communities or organizations contributing to a quality travel experience through conservation, preservation, beautification or
environmental and cultural efforts.
"Restoration of this historical and cultural structure, that's such an iconic symbol of the Florida Keys, was fostered by a local community effort led by the ‘Friends of Old Seven’ organization,” said Monroe County Commissioner Michelle Coldiron. “It has become a premier Middle Keys attraction for both
residents and visitors.”
The project to fully rehabilitate and restore the 2.2-mile section of the bridge that connects Marathon to historic Pigeon Key began Sept. 30, 2017, and was accomplished through some $44 million in funding from the Florida Department of Transportation, Monroe County Commission and the City of Marathon. Another $33 million is earmarked for maintenance during the next 30 years.
The bridge reopened to the public in January 2022.
"We are proud our beloved Old Seven Mile Bridge won recognition for sustainable tourism," said Stacey Mitchell, director of the Keys
Former SATW President Jane Wooldridge, senior director for journalism sustainability and partnerships for the Miami Herald, nominated the Old Seven Mile Bridge for the Phoenix. Nominations are reviewed by an SATW committee and then submitted to the organization’s board of directors for final approval.
SATW’s other 2022 Phoenix Awards winners were The First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Mashpi Lodge, located in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Ecuador’s tropical rainforest.
Previous Florida Keys winners of the prestigious award include Crane Point Hammock Museum & Nature Trails, also located in Marathon.