Key West

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The recent U.S. ban on cruise ships traveling to Cuba has had a ripple effect on South Florida's cruise industry. Yet not all of it is bad news.

In fact, it's bringing more attention to the southernmost port of call for these big ships in the continental U.S.

Keys Energy Services

People in South Florida have lots of reasons to resent iguanas. They pillage the garden. They poop in the pool. And in the Keys, they sometimes knock out the power.

Now Keys Energy Services, the utility that provides power from the Seven Mile Bridge to Key West, is taking steps to prevent that.

Photos courtesy Arlo Haskell. Graphic by WLRN's Sundial.

Key West, a longtime home for poets from Elizabeth Bishop to Richard Wilbur, has selected Florida Keys native Arlo Haskell as the Conch Republic’s new poet laureate.

“We certainly have more than our fair share of poets, living and dead right here on this little rock,” he said in his remarks at a city commission meeting Tuesday. “As poet laureate, I’m going to try to build a genuine Conch Republic of Letters.”

Haskell will serve in the honorary role for two years. Though he has no official duties, he said he wants to make the island city’s poetry “a little easier to see.”

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.

As Key West's housing market caters more and more to the second home set, there's a new effort to preserve some of the island's multicultural history.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The Cuban ambassador to the United States is visiting Key West and he's doing a lot of the things that tourists do: lunch at a waterfront seafood restaurant, a trolley ride, waiting in line to have his photo taken at the Southernmost Point.

But José Ramón Cabañas is also scheduled to meet with city commissioners at several events on the island.

"There's a large Cuban-American population in Key West. We know we have many friends. And that we will have the opportunity to meet local officials, business people and our Cuban community here," Cabañas said Tuesday afternoon.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

In recent weeks, a middle school art class at Horace O'Bryant School in Key West has been working on a big project. It's a float for one of Key West's many parades. In this parade, every entry is a "kinetic sculpture," which means it must have moving parts — and be powered by people, not pulled by trucks.

This particular float is about the different faces of Key West: the version that tourists see and the reality that these kids know.

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.

Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

A Senate panel on Tuesday approved a bill that would threaten local governments with hefty fines if they prohibit the sale of certain sunscreens, though lawmakers dropped an initial part of the bill that would have prevented local officials from banning plastic straws.

The bill targets sunscreens in an attempt to keep Key West from enforcing an ordinance that would ban the sale and use of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, a chemical that a study says harms coral reefs. That ordinance is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

The area to the west of Key West is one of the country's oldest national wildlife refuges. And now all of its islands are under federal protection.

Ballast Key was developer David Wolkowsky's special retreat, a privately owned island 8 miles west of Key West.

It was the only private land within the boundaries of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. Teddy Roosevelt created that refuge in 1908.

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.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

On Christmas Day, 1921, a mob including members of the KKK killed a Key West man. His gravesite was neglected for nearly a century.

After 97 years, Key West held a memorial service on Saturday for Manuel Cabeza.

Members of his family, including his 99-year-old niece, attended the service, along with a Key West Police honor guard, the Monroe County sheriff and four members of the Key West City Commission.

Manuel Cabeza was a Key Wester who served as a private in World War I.

Mark Hedden

Key West photographer Mark Hedden has long been fascinated by the folks living on boats near Key West's shores, nicknamed the "liveaboards." In 2017 Mark was awarded a Knight Arts Challenge Grant to document the lives of this community.

David Salay / Bender & Associates Architects

The Key West Art and Historical Society already maintains some of the island's most important historic buildings, like the lighthouse and the Custom House. And now the group is taking on another.

John Teets

Finding an affordable home in the Florida Keys is a real challenge. And so is finding a home for the Key West homeless shelter.

Key West has had a shelter next to the Monroe County jail on Stock Island for more than a decade. It's called KOTS - which stands for Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter. It houses about 150 people in seven temporary structures.

The city agreed to move KOTS, after residents of a condo and marina complex next door sued. And the sheriff wanted the land to build housing for employees.

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