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Pennekamp among latest Keys state parks to open

Indian Key State Park officially reopened for visitors Monday. Most of the Florida Keys state parks now are open for day use but the parks’ campgrounds are still undergoing repairs after Hurricane Irma.
Indian Key State Park officially reopened for visitors Monday. Most of the Florida Keys state parks now are open for day use but the parks’ campgrounds are still undergoing repairs after Hurricane Irma. Florida State Parks

One by one, Florida Keys state parks have been reopening their gates to day visitors after Hurricane Irma.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park at mile marker 102. oceanside on Key Largo welcomed its first day visitors Friday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said.

Boaters could walk ashore at Indian Key Historic State Park, on the oceanside off mile marker 78, on Monday.

In the Keys, the two remaining closed parks are Bahia Honda State Park at mile marker 36.8 and Long Key State Park at mile marker 67.4. No information was available on when those parks will open.

Campgrounds in Keys state parks remain closed.

“Our contractors and staff are working hard and as quickly as possible on safety repairs,” DEP information officer Jason Mahorn said Tuesday. “The primary focus is opening the parks for day visitors first. Overnight facilities will be in the second phase.”

Curry Hammock State Park on Grassy Key and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West also have opened.

Pennekamp, one of the most popular areas in the Florida State Parks system, now allows access to “several day-use areas and facilities ... including the picnic pavilions, boat ramp and kayak launches,” Mahorn said.

“Far Beach, as well as certain trails, are closed at this time,” he said. “We are working with the concessionaire to restore concessions operations as quickly as possible.”

All 168 Florida state parks closed as Hurricane Irma targeted Florida on Sept. 10 and 11. Only four, including Long Key and Bahia Honda, are still fully closed.

David Clark, acting DEP deputy secretary, told state legislators last week that repair costs to all affected parks statewide have been estimated at $55 million.

“As we continue with the assessments, I foresee that number continuing to increase,” Clark told a Florida Senate panel. “Hopefully it will not break $60 million.”

Other state parks open in the Keys include Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park, and Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park. Some sections of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail may be closed.

Current information is available at https://floridastateparks.org/content/storm-information.

With reports by the News Service of Florida

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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