Trashing the Keys: Islamorada residents forced to pick up trash tourists leave behind

(WSVN) - Out-of-towners bring in big bucks for the Florida Keys, but some residents say the money isn’t worth the mess. The Nightteam’s Brian Entin has our special assignment report, “Trashing the Keys.”

This is not meant to be a public park or a campsite, but that is exactly what this part of the Florida Keys has become: an unregulated, lawless mess along a three-mile stretch of U.S. 1 known as the Indian Key Fill, just south of Islamorada.

Brian Entin: “How bad has it gotten?”

John Timura, Islamorada resident: “This is one-tenth of what is all over the shoreline right now, and you can pick this up every single weekend.”

Keys residents spent Sunday picking up trash visitors left behind and protesting the problem.

Sue Miller, Islamorada resident: “My sign says, ‘Granny says: Mind your manners. Clean up your own mess.'”

Islamorada resident: “It is more than you can pick up. It is truly unbelievable.”

Most of the visitors trashing the shoreline mostly drive in from the Miami area because they can put their Jet Skis and boats in the water for free.

Then, they set up camp parking along the shoreline.

Brian Entin: “Why the toilet bowl around your neck?”

Barry Wray, Islamorada resident: “This is my souvenir. It is the first thing I picked up this morning when I stopped on the side of the road. It was a toilet bowl.”

Because this is not a public park, there are no bathrooms.

Barry Wray: “Literally, we have people defecating in the water here.”

Brian Entin: “They go to the bathroom right here?”

Barry Wray: “Absolutely. I have seen it personally.”

The residents created a Facebook page called Wall of Shame — Florida Keys Visitors, where they call out the bad behavior — like a man going to the bathroom next to this bridge using a branch as a toilet-paper holder.

John Timura: “They are not people from here. I can tell you that.”

Local elected officials say there is not much they can do to fix the problems here because this is technically state land. They don’t have control of this area, but they are still having to spend local money to clean up the trash.

Brian Entin: “What is your message to the state?”

Ken Davis, Islamorada Councilman: “Take care of your own freaking mess. Pay your bills. Don’t be the bad neighbor. You are an absent landlord.”

The state pays $50,000 a year to keep the area clean, but the town of Islamorada says it’s costing them $250,000 to maintain the land they don’t even own.

To bring awareness to the problem, the Monroe County Sheriff landed his helicopter on the Indian Key Fill, Sunday.

Sheriff Rick Ramsay, Monroe County: “There’s really no rules or regulations. There’s very limited trash receptacles. No bathrooms.”

The sheriff met with the state and came up with a few options, like leasing the land to Islamorada so they can manage it or closing it off to visitors altogether. A final plan hasn’t been ironed out yet.

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