Nancy Klingener

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami HeraldSolares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.

She is a Spring 2014 graduate of the Transom Story Workshop. She is on the board of the Key West Literary Seminar and reviews books for the Miami Herald

It's been more than 20 years since the last comprehensive plan to manage the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

It's been decades since Monroe County opened a new library branch. And even longer since the county built a library. That is about to change.

Construction began on a new library in Marathon last month.

In the last few months, Key West has banned the sale of chemical sunscreens and the use of styrofoam and some pesticides on city property. Now the city is taking on single-use plastics.

Rebuild Florida is a state program that helps people whose homes were severely damaged in Hurricane Irma. The program is also aimed at removing some homes in harm's way .

For months, a truck that serves only as a mobile billboard has been driving around downtown Key West. Its days on the island may be numbered.

Key West is taking on the island's abundant wild iguana population. They're everywhere, including city-owned property, from the old landfill known as Mount Trashmore to the historic cemetery in the center of the island. 

For the last several weeks, Chicago-based composer and percussionist Ben Wahlund has been a resident artist at The Studios of Key West, absorbing the island and its people, both the tourists and the service workers who provide the only-in-Key West experiences for them.

Wahlund's observations and encounters have been transformed into a dozen musical compositions that he's calling "Mile Marker Zero."

WLRN's Nancy Klingener talked to Wahlund about his work and got a preview of some of the pieces he'll be performing on Saturday, July 13, at The Studios of Key West.

There are a lot of challenges to living in the Florida Keys. The biggest is the cost of living. But even some people who can afford to live in the Keys are leaving anyway for another reason — the lack of access to medical care.

About 25 Democrats in Key West gathered at Shanna Key, an Irish pub, to watch the debate.

Bert Sise is chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Monroe County.

She was watching to see the candidates address a couple issues in particular.

"Climate change for sure. For sure. Because all of our lives in South Florida are going to be impacted by what happens in the next couple of decades," she said.

While the spotlight was on the candidates Wednesday evening, Sise says local party members have an important role to play in the election and in national politics.

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.

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.

The red tide on Florida's Gulf Coast last year killed dolphins, manatees and fish. A new study finds the toxic algae also affects stone crab, one of Florida's most valuable seafood products.

If you live in the Florida Keys, there are some real challenges to having a baby. If you want to go to a hospital, you have two options. One is at mile marker 5 in Key West. The other is to go all the way to on the mainland in Homestead. And if you’re a new patient with Medicaid, it gets even harder.

WLRN recently spoke with Arianna Nesbitt, executive director of the Florida Keys Healthy Start Coalition. That's the nonprofit that works with pregnant women and families with young children to keep young kids in the Keys healthy and safe.

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.

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.

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