keys blog

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

This story originally aired July 19, 2016. 

When Patty Tiffany leads tours of the Key West Cemetery for the Historic Florida Keys Foundation, there's one gravestone that gets a lot more attention than the elaborate grave sites and mausoleums at the cemetery, which dates back to the middle of the 19th century.

That would be the grave of B.P. "Pearl" Roberts. It's a simple stone with a famous inscription: "I Told You I Was Sick."

Jeremy Dixon / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 Burmese pythons have established themselves in the Everglades — and now they appear to be breeding in the Florida Keys, according to state and federal wildlife agencies.

Charles Trainor Jr. / Miami Herald Staff

  The Keys have changed a lot in the last four decades — ask anyone who's visited or lived there during that time.

But one thing has remained the same: the toll collected at the booth on Card Sound Road, the only connection between the islands and the mainland other than U.S. 1. It's 50 cents an axle, the same price it has been since 1969.

"What's the same price as it was in 1969?" Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said Wednesday. "Nothing. Only that toll."

Scott Fraser / City of Key West

When it comes to sea level rise, Key West is pretty much as vulnerable as it gets. The island's average elevation is less than five feet above sea level. A tide gauge at Key West Harbor tracks the steady rise of the sea over the last century.

Monroe County Public Library

  Eighty years ago, hurricanes weren't given human names. So the storm that devastated the Upper Keys in 1935 is known simply by the day it swept across Islamorada: the Labor Day Hurricane.

Islamorada in 1935 was a small village of a few hundred people, scraping through the Depression growing Key limes and pineapples. The village was also the site of a camp for hundreds more: relief workers building a highway. Most of those workers were World War I veterans.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  While Florida Keys residents debate the use of genetically modified mosquitoes ahead of a November referendum, a new survey finds that a majority of Floridians supports the concept.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  Key West has a great restaurant scene — but people who live on the island know that to get true local delicacies you have to get inside someone's kitchen. Preferably someone who was born in the Keys, or a Conch in local parlance.

Someone like Martin Liz. He was born and raised on the island and he knows how to handle a conch filet.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  When Cuban migrants cross the Florida Straits and arrive on U.S. shores in homemade vessels, it's news for a day or two. Now, for a museum in Key West, it is also history.

The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum has created a permanent exhibit featuring the Mariana. The boat came ashore on Smathers Beach in Key West in August of last year.

Diveheart

  Gabriel Spataro was instrumental in placing an Italian statue, cast from the same mold as Genoa's Christ of the Abyss, in the waters off Key Largo.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  Billy Causey has been in the Florida Keys since the early 1970s. And in that time, he's figured out a few things.

"There's some things you learn not to talk about. You know — religion, politics ... and mini-season," Causey said. "You don't go to a party in the Keys and talk about any one of those three."

Saeed Adyani/Netflix

"Bloodline," the Netflix TV series set in the Florida Keys, is set to return for a third season.

That's according to social media posts on Twitter and Facebook, as well as a story in the Hollywood Reporter.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  Denyse Woods has published five novels that have been translated into six languages.

But she said she was still surprised — and elated — when she learned that she had won the first Florida Keys Flash Fiction contest. Especially when she read the praise for her story from contest judge Karen Russell, author of "Swamplandia."

"I had to lie down for a few minutes," Woods said. "When somebody like that writes about your work in that way ... You need to take three deep breaths and pinch yourself. A lot."

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  The old Seven Mile Bridge hasn't carried car traffic since 1982.

But the span from Knight's Key to Pigeon Key has become a kind of linear park for the Middle Keys, offering spectacular sunset views.

  "We're fortunate to be able to have the bridge that we can walk out on," said Leslie Christensen of Marathon. "It think it attracts a lot of tourists and a lot of people like to come and take pictures. It's a real iconic part of Marathon."

FWC

  Hogfish, an orange fish in the wrasse family, may be ugly but they're increasingly popular in the Florida Keys.

That's especially true for people who spearfish, like Lea Moeller of Key West.

"It's one of the only fish that's slow enough for me to shoot," Moeller said. "But it's also delicious."

The number of hogfish caught in federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean last year increased so sharply that the recreational season was closed in August for the first time ever.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Key West is ideal in many ways for biking — it's small, flat and warm year-round. But the island also faces challenges, with high accident rates for bicycles and pedestrians.

Chris Hamilton, the city's bicycle/pedestrian coordinator, is working to make the streets safer and encourage more people to get out of their cars and get around Key West by foot, bike or public transit. 

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