Plans have been unveiled for a new, 110-unit, carbon-neutral oceanfront resort with a low-impact, sustainable design on Valhalla Island in the Florida Keys, roughly 15 minutes from Marathon International Airport.
The venture is being developed by Johnny Morris, conservationist and founder of Bass Pro Shops, which operates 12 retail outlets across the Sunshine State.
Morris and his team are working closely with area conservation partners and local community officials to ensure the Valhalla Island Resort not only meets but enhances the existing character of the community.
The resort includes more than 175 acres and will be the largest in the Florida Keys. More than half the property’s green space will be maintained and the resort is designed to have a minimal footprint. Techniques and technology to protect the environment are being incorporated into the design.
The resort will feature restaurants, a spa, swimming pools and full-service fishing marina. It will use solar and geothermal power, employ rainwater harvesting, and buildings will be oriented to enhance natural ventilation.
Construction is scheduled to be completed within two years. Morris envisions it will serve as a new model for low-impact, sustainable design in The Keys.
“The Keys are a treasure, this land is a treasure, and we want to keep it that way,” he says. “We want to treat it that way, and keep it that way, and have a place where people come and enjoy fishing, enjoy nature, and have the kids come and learn about the environment and take care of it.”
The development, which will include more than a mile of beachfront property, has been in the works for more than 30 years. Morris has been assembling the properties where the resort is planned from individual owners. The City of Marathon gave approval to the project in summer 2021.
His inspiration to develop the resort came from the Long Key Fishing Camp, which was founded in 1908 by Henry Flagler, and is credited for being largely responsible for establishing The Keys’ position of prominence on the sport fishing landscape. It was frequented by U.S. presidents, A-listers from Hollywood’s Golden Age, Ernest Hemingway, and others and opened the doors to The Keys.
To preserve the natural integrity of the land, state-of-the-art sustainable design techniques will be used, including onsite renewable energy via solar and geothermal power, rainwater harvesting and storage and orienting buildings to enhance natural ventilation.
To bring the vision to life, Morris has partnered with leading architecture firms Hart Howerton and Nunzio Marc DeSantis Architects. Using ecologically sensitive design techniques and working with the natural ecology, plans call for a vehicle-free resort with permeable surfaces.
There will be a collection of cottages of various sizes, in addition to a master lodge and general store.
Morris and his team are working closely with area conservation partners and local community officials to ensure the resort not only meets but enhances the existing character of the community.
Key partners and agencies being consulted include the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, South Florida Water Management District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Atlantic-Gulf Unified Region and Audubon Florida.
Conservation efforts extend outside the resort itself. Plans call for extensive transformation of nearby hotel properties acquired by Morris into fully renovated apartment buildings to comfortably accommodate workforce housing, with shuttle service to reduce any potential congestion.
Set upon a remarkably unique island environment, the aim of the project is to help families connect to nature.
Bass Pro Shops has made significant conservation investments across Florida for decades, mostly in the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay areas. The company’s operations provide thousands of jobs while supporting the state’s multibillion-dollar sport fishing and tourism industries.
The company’s World Wide Sportsman flagship location in Islamorada – with a marina, retail location and restaurant – is a globally recognized sport fishing landmark.
Morris himself is a longtime supporter of fisheries conservation in The Keys. In 2019, the National Audubon Society recognized his leadership in conservation by awarding him the Audubon Medal, its highest honor.
The company says the Valhalla Island Resort will help boost to tourism within the Florida Keys, especially within the segments of sport fishing and nature-based tourism.
The resort is a two-hour drive from Miami and just over an hour from Key West and sits at ground zero for some of the best fishing in the world, with access to areas around The Keys and waters of the Gulf Stream.