The Road to Recovery for the Florida Keys & Key West
By ABA Media
“Hurricane Irma may have knocked out our power, but in the Florida Keys, we’ve never been more connected. Together, we’ve picked up the pieces and we’re getting back to business. We are strong and resilient. We are 1.”
That’s the message of the new advertising campaign from the Florida Keys & Key West—and it’s the message meant to promote the destination’s upcoming winter tourism season. The campaign’s theme of “We Are 1” refers to the famed 127-mile-long Overseas Highway, U.S. Route 1, that runs throughout the Keys.
The Florida Keys reopened to visitors on Sunday, Oct. 1, after being impacted by Hurricane Irma on Sept. 10. The decision to open the Keys to visitors was based on winding up some of the most immediate infrastructure repairs. Today, all power and water have been restored from Key Largo through Marathon, as well as throughout Stock Island and Key West. Cellular service is working well, but restoration of cable television and internet has lagged behind other utilities.
“We know we have a long way to go before the Keys fully recover,” said Monroe County Mayor George Neugent. “But because tourism is our top economic engine and many of our residents’ livelihoods depend on it, we also know that we need to begin asking visitors to return.”
Tour operators should call ahead, however, to ensure their hotels, restaurants, and favorite attractions are open. Some hotels are accommodating displaced residents under a Federal Emergency Management Agency program. Recovery efforts are ongoing, especially in the Lower Keys and parts of Marathon, where many residences and businesses were hardest hit by the storm. Motorcoach operators should use extreme caution when navigating these regions and stay off side roads to avoid hindering restoration activities. Throughout the Keys, there are significant debris piles that are being picked up by cleanup contractors.
Drivers should also take care to avoid residential neighborhoods off the Overseas Highway. Some neighborhoods, from south of Key Largo to north of Key West, are deeply immersed in full recovery efforts. Some parking areas outside of Key West and Key Largo may be used as debris staging areas.
Many Keys parks currently are closed for debris removal and renovations, but four state parks—including three in the Islamorada area—have reopened. The 2,805-acre Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, a hidden treasure near mile marker 106 in Key Largo, and the 300-acre Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park at mile marker 84.9 and the 287-acre Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park at mile marker 78.5, both in Islamorada, reopened earlier this month.
An underwater park, San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park, located about 1.25 nautical miles south of Indian Key and off mile marker 78.5 in Islamorada, also opened.
The famed John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in the U.S. encompassing about 70 nautical square miles, is targeting a reopening in early November.
“It’s been a road of recovery and continues to be so, but we’ve made enough progress where the infrastructure is ready to accept visitors,” said Stacey Mitchell, director of marketing for the Florida Keys tourism council. “By the visitors coming down, they’re helping in the recovery and being part of that process.”
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