Florida Keys

4:47 pm
Wed May 6, 2015

Monroe Tries To Tackle Affordable Housing Crisis

This site in Old Town Key West used to house a trailer park that provided affordable housing. Now it is being redeveloped as "resort homes" that start at $760,000.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

When it comes to affordable housing, the Florida Keys face a quadruple whammy: low supply, high demand, strict growth limits and a tourism industry that pays low service-sector wages.

That's the conclusion of a new study from the Florida State University Consensus Center. Affordable housing woes are not new to the Keys. But the pressure eased some during the recession, according to Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi.

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Vacation Rentals
6:00 pm
Tue April 28, 2015

Keys Tourism Agency Calls For Crackdown On Unlicensed Rentals

Tourism in the Florida Keys is booming — which means there's a high demand for vacation rentals, licensed or not. The Keys tourism agency recommends local governments crack down on the unlicensed units.
Credit Bob Krist / Florida Keys News Service

The tourism industry in the Florida Keys is booming with high occupancy and record-high room rates this season. Still, the Monroe County Tourist Development Council this week released a report (see it at the end of this post) on unlicensed vacation rentals and rental scams, calling for a crackdown by local governments.

The Keys have 15,000 licensed lodging units — that includes hotel rooms, campsites and homes with licenses for short-term rentals. In most of the Keys, short-term is defined as less than a month.

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Keys Blog
12:26 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Florida Keys Get 10-Digit Dialing, Like It Or Not

Credit Christopher / Flickr/Creative Commons

The Florida Keys like to consider themselves as a place apart from mainland South Florida. But starting this weekend, life on the island chain will be just like Miami-Dade in one way. 

Keys business and tourism leaders fought against 10-digit dialing when it was first proposed for the island chain. They said it would make it harder for visitors and customers to reach them.

The state agreed in 2005 to delay the change for as long as possible. The Keys held out for 10 years, but they’ve finally reached the end of the road for seven-digit dialing.

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Mosquito Control
2:47 pm
Wed April 8, 2015

Florida Keys Hope To Add New Weapon In War Against Mosquitoes: Genetic Modification

Carrie Atwood, a domestic inspector for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, uses a flashlight to search for aedes aegypti larvae.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

In the fight against mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, domestic inspector Carrie Atwood has a few indispensable tools. She carries a dipper — essentially, a plastic cup at the end of a stick. She has a flashlight for looking into the backs of plants and pots. And she has a turkey baster.

"That's good for getting into bromeliads, which is a plant that holds water at the base of the leaf," Atwood said. "We use that to dip in there or just any other kind of tight space where the dipper won't go."

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Traffic Safety
7:13 pm
Tue April 7, 2015

Keys Sheriff Protests Year-Old Crosswalk After Crash

A crosswalk sign wound up between two of the cars involved in last week's pile-up on U.S. 1 in Key Largo.
Credit Monroe County Sheriff's Office

Monroe Sheriff Rick Ramsay is protesting a year-old crosswalk on the Overseas Highway in Key Largo after a three-car pileup at the site last week.

Ramsay said the first he or any of his officers heard about the crosswalk was when it was installed a year ago by the state Department of Transportation.

"We were not advised, not informed, not asked. Our input wasn't taken by FDOT in any manner or form," Ramsay said. "We were surprised like everyone else when it showed up one day, just popped up. It was just a total surprise."

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Commercial Fishing
8:56 am
Mon April 6, 2015

Lobster Season Ends With Good Catch, Great Prices But Looming Challenges

George Niles, left, and Daniel Padron fix lobster traps on Stock Island. The lobster fishing season ended March 31.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The spiny lobster season ended March 31. State biologists say it looks like the total catch will be slightly lower than last year — but the seafood that came to the market fetched record-high prices.

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6:36 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Key West Cops Get Body Cams Courtesy Of Sheriff's Office

Monroe Sheriff Rick Ramsay, left, and Key West Police Chief Donie Lee check out one of the 100 new body cameras purchased by the Sheriff's Office for the Key West Police Department.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Body cameras for the Key West Police Department. Night binoculars for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Radar units for the Florida Highway Patrol.

It was like Christmas in February at the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Friday, with Sheriff Rick Ramsay in the role of Santa Claus for fellow law enforcement agencies.

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Keys Hotels
6:56 am
Thu February 26, 2015

Keys Adding Hotel Rooms To Booming Industry

Tom Whitney is the general manager of The Marker Resort, which opened last December in the Key West Historic Seaport.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The Florida Keys have been under a moratorium on new hotel rooms for decades. But the islands are seeing a flood of new properties open, mostly through renovations and conversions.

In all, about 1,000 new rooms are being added or coming back on line after being closed for renovation and rebuilding. The Keys have a total of 15,000 lodging units, which includes hotel rooms, RV spots and short-term vacation rentals.

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4:30 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Still Murder-Free, Key West Saw Crime Fall In 2014

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office provides local law enforcement for the Florida Keys outside of Key West.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

 While the Florida Keys may provide a fertile setting for crime fiction by the likes of Carl Hiaasen and James W. Hall, in reality the islands are getting safer, according to statistics from local law enforcement agencies.

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6:18 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Wilderness Island Attracts Wildlife — And Party Crowd

The sandy beach and serene atmosphere at Boca Grande makes the island attractive to wildlife like sea turtles — and boaters looking for a place to party.
Credit U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The islands west of Key West have been designated as a national wildlife refuge since 1908, when Teddy Roosevelt created the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. The intent was to protect birds from plume-hunters who were killing them for feathers to adorn ladies' hats.

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4:50 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Keys Already Advertising For Gay Wedding Business

Credit Peetje2 / Creative Commons/Flickr

As soon as same-sex marriage became legal in Florida, the Keys tourism council was on LGBT websites and blogs advertising the islands as a wedding destination.

“The Florida Keys has long been a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons,” said Harold Wheeler, director of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. He’s hoping the same will apply for same-sex couples.

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New Keys hotels
8:12 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Florida Keys Adding New Hotel Rooms

The Marker Resort is Old Town Key West's first newly built hotel in about 20 years.
Credit Marker Resort / Facebook

The Florida Keys, where hotels have the highest occupancy rates and daily room rates in the state, are adding more than 1,000 new and renovated hotel rooms in the next few months.

While only a few of the rooms are brand new, some have been unavailable for years while the properties were wholly reinvented.

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4:28 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Endangered Turtles To Swim Free After Stay In Keys Hospital

Turtle Hospital Manager Bette Zirkelbach checks the heart rate of a Kemp's ridley sea turtle. The hospital has treated and released nine of the critically endangered turtles, which were stunned by cold in New England and shipped to Florida for recovery.
Credit Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Service

Nine Kemp's ridley sea turtles have been released from the Turtle Hospital in Marathon and will be returned to the sea off northern Florida's Atlantic coast.

They are part of a group of 193 Kemp's ridley turtles sent to Florida from New England last month, after an early cold snap caught them before their annual migration south.

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lobster casitas
5:43 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

Lobster Casitas Get Thumbs Down From State

Spiny lobster are Florida's most valuable fishery, with $50 million in landings annually. Commercial divers would like to use casitas to help catch them, but trap fishermen and state regulators oppose the move.
Credit Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

For years, divers looking for lobster in the Florida Keys knew that the best place to find them was under some sort of shelter, whether a rock or something more artificial like a car hood.

John Coffin, who owns a marine salvaging business in the Lower Keys, said he got into using "casitas," or little houses, to find lobster in the late 1970s.

"It was a huge secret. I would never dive with another person," Coffin said. Still, even before GPS, other divers started following him around.

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Keys lighthouses
4:17 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

New Mission for Keys' Reef Lights: Historical Guideposts

Alligator Reef Light was built in 1873 and survived the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S.
Credit Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Service

The reef lights along the Florida Keys are still owned by the U.S. Coast Guard -- but a nonprofit group hopes to take over their care and make them a 100-mile long museum of maritime history.

The Florida Keys Reef Lights Foundation is raising money to apply to the Coast Guard for ownership of five lights stretching from Carysfort Reef off Key Largo to Sand Key off Key West. The others are Alligator Reef off Islamorada, Sombrero Reef off Marathon and American Shoal off the Lower Keys.

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