If you watched the national news coverage of President-elect Donald Trump’s Thanksgiving weekend stay at Mar-a-Lago you may have noticed that some TV reporters were doing their live stand-ups from a place identified as “Bingham Island, Florida.”
Bingham Island? Where’s that?
“We just call it the Southern Boulevard Causeway,” said Jack Rose, 69, of West Palm Beach. “I’ve never heard of Bingham Island, and I’ve been coming here since I was five.”
I spoke to Rose on Monday morning after he reeled in a small barracuda on the north end of the island between the Southern Boulevard drawbridge to the west and a small bridge that connects the island to Palm Beach and Mar-a-Lago to the east.
Southern Boulevard runs straight through the middle of the island, which has a densely treed bird sanctuary to the south of the road and an open flat expanse of lawn to the north that looks out onto the Intracoastal Waterway and the West Palm Beach skyline in the distance.
With the news media barred from setting up command posts outside Trump’s Palm Beach mansion, reporters settled for standing on this little spit of land in the Intracoastal because it affords an unobstructed view of the sprawling back lawn of Mar-a-Lago.
Google Maps identifies it as Bingham Island, although you’d be hard-pressed to find any of the regulars who know its name.
“Here, I know I’m going to be by myself, just being out in God’s creation and enjoying life,” said Craig Robins, 55, of Boynton Beach.
Robins parked his car in one of the 21 available parking spaces on the island on Monday morning, then dragged his cooler and six fishing rods to one of his tried-and-true fishing locations, where he hoped to hook sand perch, black drum, croakers and the occasional snook.
“I’ve been coming here 30 years,” Robins said. “But all this time I never knew this place had a name. It’s just my favorite spot.”
Trump’s recent visit, which filled Robins’ little fishing paradise with media trucks, noise and bright lights, kept him away from his favorite spot last weekend.
“I didn’t even bother trying to come here,” he said.
The island is also a favorite with local cyclists for its proximity to State Road A1A, the most picturesque road for cycling. The cyclists transport their bicycles on car racks, then leave the cars parked on one of the two island lots while they ride the coastal road.
Others, like Leonardo Peña, 57, a commercial truck driver from West Palm Beach, come to the island for a smoke and a little peace and quiet.
Peña has been coming to Bingham Island for picnics with his friends, and when the tide is right, they wade out to that little island to the north, Palmsicle Island.
But he never knew the formal names for either island.
“I just say, ‘Let’s go to the bridge,’” Peña said. “I take pictures and send them back to show my family in Cuba, because it’s so beautiful.”
(Note to the national press corps: Palmsicle Island would make for a more exotic dateline for those Mar-a-Lago reports. But after you wade out on low tide, you’ve got to make it back before the tide turns, or you’ll end up spending the night with the ospreys.)
“I hope this place doesn’t get ruined by the press,” said Sara Wayda, 38, a show-jumping equestrian who winters in Wellington.
Wayda discovered Bingham Island as a perfect spot to take her two Australian shepherds, Charlie and Francis, to run around without a leash and play in the calm water. But she didn’t know it had a name.
“When we don’t want to go all the way to Jupiter, we come here,” she said. “We’ve been coming here for eight years now.”
Coming to Bingham Island. Might as well get used to saying it.
For the next four years, or possibly eight, the island will take on a new role as a part-time holding pen for the media. And so for the first time, it will get suited up into its formal name, even though those who love it the most will continue to refer to it in their own ways.