Florida Keys

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Key West built a firehouse in 1908. A few years later, someone planted a mamey tree in the yard alongside it. Now that tree is now getting some special attention.

Alex Vega spent three years early in his career at Key West Firehouse No. 3, the site of that tree. He says the big mamey tree in the yard sometimes produced 30 of the football-shaped fruit and sometimes 300. But it was always shared around.

"Every watch got a bagful — two for you, one for your mother. They would give them out to their family and stuff," he said.

Al Diaz / Miami Herald

Hurricane Irma was at Category 4 strength when it crossed the Florida Keys in September of 2017. And the Keys are still in the rebuilding process, even as a new hurricane season starts.

Bruce Stevens / Florida Keys Mosquito Control District

Rainy season in South Florida means it's also mosquito season. And now there's a new weapon being added to the arsenal against the insects in the Florida Keys.

Cammy Clark / Monroe County

A $7.9 million project to upgrade a county park on Stock Island was a couple weeks out from completion when Hurricane Irma tore across the Lower Keys in September 2017.

The damage caused by the hurricane extended that work for almost a year, but the project was completed and Monroe County held a ribbon-cutting last August.

Now the Monroe County clerk has issued an audit report on the project. Among the conclusions:

flkeysnews.com

On the Overseas Highway in the Keys, there's only one drawbridge left. And its end may be nearing.

Danny Rivero / WLRN

In the hunt for housing affordability, mobile home parks have been an oasis. But developers are eyeing them, increasing rents and forcing some residents to leave.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The Key West city charter says voters have to approve any deal for the city to buy real estate. And Key West voters have a decision to make.

FWC Corals Program

Five years ago, a new coral disease was found right off downtown Miami. It has now spread through the Florida reef tract, from Martin County down past Key West. In response, scientists are taking unprecedented measures to make sure some coral survives, at least in captivity.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Anyone who has ever driven to or from Key West has crossed the Cow Key Bridge. It's the only road on or off of the island.

Now the state says the bridge's decks and beams need to be replaced on the two spans (one outgoing, one incoming) that connect Key West with the rest of the world.

Jessica Bakeman / WLRN News

Hundreds of people enjoyed food, drinks and music from the Florida Keys at the state Capitol on Tuesday evening, the culmination of an annual lobbying trip that Monroe County elected officials and business owners use to share local priorities with state lawmakers.

City mayors, school board members, community college administrators and restauranteurs told legislators throughout the day about their biggest concern: affordable housing.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Four Keys cities and Monroe County have sent FEMA bills for more than $91 million from Hurricane Irma. A year and a half after the storm, they have received less than 12 percent of the money.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

After Hurricane Irma slammed the Florida Keys in September of 2017, lots of volunteers came to help with clean up. Almost a year and a half later, there's still work to do repairing homes, and volunteers who want to help.

The challenge has been finding them a place to stay.

Monroe County Code Compliance

If you look for vacation rentals in the Florida Keys, you may notice a lot of boats offered as lodging. Now Monroe County has brought a code compliance case against one of the owners.

Michael Dewitt says he's put $130,000 into fixing up his 40-foot sportfishing boat, docked behind his house on Little Torch Key.

So when a property manager approached him about renting it as a vacation rental on Airbnb, he agreed.

"It sat behind my house empty, I had a couple of neighbors that were doing the exact same thing - that are still doing the exact same thing," he said.

Compassion for a hungry stray kitten led to a nip on the finger — and also took a bite out of Jeannette Parker's wallet.

In a rural area just outside Florida's Everglades National Park, Parker spotted the cat wandering along the road. It looked skinny and sick, and when Parker, a wildlife biologist, offered up some tuna she had in her car, the cat bit her finger.

"It broke my skin with his teeth," she recalls.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The Florida Keys could be facing a deadline that's unprecedented in South Florida. Four years from now, there might not be any more homes that can be built in the Keys.

The state has a rule that the island chain has to be able to get everyone out 24 hours before a hurricane hits. And there’s just one road out. So there’s a limit to how many people are allowed to live in the Keys.

That means people who live in the Keys — and especially the people who would like to build there in the future — are trying to figure out what to do.

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