August 23 – One item on the ballot today that is of upmost importance is helping the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden get a 99 year lease.
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 how critical this election is today.
A referendum on the ballot is an opportunity for the garden to get an extended lease.
McRae said, “It’s really needed for capital projects as well as the protection and the future of the Botanical Garden. The referendum allows the city of Key West to extend our lease from 10 years up to 99 years.”
The garden celebrated its 86th anniversary this year.
McRae said, “As far as conservation goes, education, community outreach, the garden is the place and this referendum is going to provide some insurance for the future of this garden.”
Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM said, “I can’t even imagine a future without the Botanical Garden in town.”
“Me neither!” McRae agreed. “I think it’s become a focal point of the city. As I’ve told everyone, every great city has a great botanical garden and Key West has this one. It sets a statement, not only for the community, but for the city as a whole that we do care about the environment, that we’re doing to protect what we can for the environment and the conservation methods that it upholds, not only locally, but globally on the efforts that we do to protect the flora and fauna of the Keys.”
Indeed, the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden really does get international acclaim as the only frost-free subtropical natural conservation habitat.
McRae said, “We are one of only a handful of botanical gardens in the world that focuses exclusively on native species of our region. Not only that, but we’ve been identified as 25 locations in the world known for its biodiversity. We’re in one of the five of Florida areas of critical concern, which means we have flora and fauna at the botanical garden that are nowhere else in this world.”
Why would anyone vote no for the referendum?
McRae said, “As we all well know and I tell everyone in true honesty, in the culture climate of hotels and condos, to say the botanical garden is still here after 86 years has been no small feet.”
It began at 55 acres, got knocked down to 7.8 and now has grown back to 15.
McRae said, “It’s a testament of resilience. Of course Mother Nature’s biodiversity and of course the community as a whole in protecting our natural resources. I hear it all the time, no brainer, but I’m really urging everyone to get out there and get to the polls and vote if you haven’t already and please vote yes for the 99 year referendum.”
The garden is a tourist draw and enhances the life for the locals as well.
Since 1914, the land has been allocated and designated as wildlife habitat.
McRae said, “To be able to say that the garden is still there, is still growing is a testament and the success of our community.”
Birding is also a plus for the garden.
McRae said, “The bird watching industry is multi-billion dollars. If we have a rare bird at the garden, it’s not unusual for us to get a phone call from Alaska, South Carolina, asking is the bird still there? And they’ll show up the next day.”
The garden has had 210 species of bird identified in both spring and fall migration.
It also has fresh, sweet rainwater, which is paramount for migrating birds and butterflies.
The garden is a non-profit organization that doesn’t cost the city a dime.
To get involved in the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, donate or become a member here: https://www.keywest.garden/
And remember vote YES on the referendum!