July 29 – The primary election is getting closer and there’s a referendum on the ballot that is critical to the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden.
It needs a yes vote from YOU.
Misha McRae, executive director of the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about the voter referendum on August 23.
The referendum will authorize the city to provide the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden up to a 99 year lease.
McRae explained, “The word is yes. On the August 23 referendum, up in the upper right hand corner, you get to choose. It clearly says that the Key West Botanical Garden at 5210 College Road receives the right to have up to 99 year lease. This is key importance.”
The garden has been the keeper of the trees for 86 years. It opened in 1936. It’s the longest continuously running attraction in Key West. It is also the only frost-free, sub-tropical natural conservation habitat, native plant botanical garden in the continental United States.
That’s a big deal, so let’s keep it going.
The garden houses native flora and fauna of the Keys, Cuba and the Caribbean.
McRae said, “We are in the fifth year of our ten-year lease which was given to us back in 2017. As you can imagine, with a ten-year lease, we are really restricted on donations for any big capital projects. This is a key component of the survival and the future of the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden because an extended lease not only insures that the botanical garden continues, but it will be the same size for future generations.”
There are capital projects planned for grants to repair the front entrance, as well as the education department.
About 3,500 students come into the garden each year.
McRae said, “(It gives) them environmental studies, biology, science, the whole concept of art in the garden. It needs a new office. Our education trailer was donated to us back in 2004 and has reached it’s life and we need to replace it, which is going to be a big project.”
One of the biggest projects the garden would like to see is a Visitor’s Center on the south end of the property by the native nursey.
McRae said it would give the garden “an actual physical presence from the highway so people can actually see us.”
Large grant funding will be critical for those projects and that’s why the extended lease is so important.
Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM said, “The botanical garden has certainly grown over the years. Started in the Depression, actually, and Key West was bankrupt around the time that the botanical garden began and it certainly was instrumental in bringing tourism to the Keys and obviously we want to have another chapter on the 86 years it’s already been around. So that voter referendum, August 23, vote yes to allow the up to 99 year lease for the Key West Botanical Garden.”
The Botanical Garden Society has been stewards of the property since 1988 and the garden has grown from 7.8 to 15 acres.
McRae said, “The public needs to realize that this is Key West property. We leased it. We pay for the lease. It doesn’t cost the public anything. In fact, as stewards of the property, the city of Key West has left all liability to the society. In other words, the public doesn’t pay for anything, the society is covering it and this referendum is acknowledging that as a not-for-profit public botanical garden we’d be able to have an extended lease.”
This spectacular garden relies heavily on donations. To help the garden, click here: https://www.kwgardenguardians.com/
The botanical garden has had a native plant nursery since 2010 with the mission to have a replacement plant for every species of plant that grows naturally in the garden.
McRae said, “Right now we have achieved the status of over 190 different native species of plants. Well over 2,000 plants in our inventory and of those 190, over 90 are on the threatened endangered species list. We’re the only non-profit that has a native nursery and we’re the only native nursery here in south Florida that really focuses on the plants that belong in the Keys.”
The third Saturday of each month it is open to the public.
Residents are welcome to become a member of the society.
McRae said, “I’ve been a Key West resident for 26 years, 25 of those have been focused with the botanical garden. Every great city has a great botanical garden. Key West has a great botanical garden at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden.”
“It certainly does,” Stapleford agreed. “It is a treasure and we need to protect it and support it going forward.”
For more information about the garden, click here: https://www.keywest.garden/