April 22 marks the worldwide commemoration of Earth Day and throughout the Florida Keys, visitors can enjoy outdoor events and volunteer activities, including the one-day planetary celebration. Many don’t realize that the Florida Keys & Key West are surrounded by a national marine sanctuary and paralleled by the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, with significant conservation efforts in place. We’ve highlighted the Earth Day activities taking place near Tranquility Bay Resort in Marathon and Key West although there is an array of activity throughout the Florida Keys.
Marathon Area Activities
Bahia Honda State Park: For the 18th year, the 524-acre Bahia Honda State Park, located in the Lower Keys at mile marker (MM) 36.8, is to host its annual Earth Day Celebration Saturday, April 20, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The free family-friendly event features live music by various Keys favorites including the popular family band The Doerfels, a sand sculpture contest, fish printing, puppet shows, face painting, children’s games and marine touch tanks.
Environmental exhibitions are to be presented by local groups including Marathon’s renowned Turtle Hospital, Pigeon Key, the Florida Keys Astronomy Club and many more. Bahia Honda’s pristine expanse of sandy beach has been ranked among the United States’ 10 best. One of the Florida Keys’ most popular camping and recreation areas, Bahia Honda offers deep near-shore waters for swimming and snorkeling as well as camping, picnicking, watersports, a marina and rental cabins.
For more information about Earth Day activities at the park, call the Bahia Honda Sand and Sea Nature Center at 305-872-9807.
Dolphin Research Center Bridge Cleanup: Located at MM 59 bayside on Grassy Key, the Dolphin Research Center is sponsoring a bridge cleanup Thursday, April 25, for interested volunteers who want to enjoy time outdoors while giving back to the environment. Participants are to meet at 4:30 p.m. at Tom’s Harbor Bridge, MM 60.6. The cleanup will begin at the parking area on the west end of the bridge on the ocean side and last until 5:45 p.m.
Volunteers are encouraged to wear clothes, hats and shoes that can get wet or dirty, and bring a bug repellent, sunscreen and a cutting tool. For more information, contact Courtney Coburn at 305-289-1121, ext. 231. Dolphin Research Center also is to host its annual Ocean Day Celebration Thursday, May 9, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. DRC welcomes Florida Keys third- and fifth-grade classes for a fun-filled day of watching the center’s resident dolphins and learning about marine life, the Florida Keys environment and other topics.
As well as Dolphin Research Center, presenters include numerous environmental and nature groups such as Bahia Honda State Park, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Turtle Hospital, Reef Relief and others.
The center is open daily to the public. General admission is $20 per adult, $15 for children ages 4-12, $17.50 for members of the military and free for children age 3 and younger. For information, call 305-289-1121 or visit www.dolphins.org.
Key West Activities
Celebrate the planet outdoors Saturday, April 6, during the Earth Day 5k Run/Walk starting at McCoy Indigenous Park, located at Atlantic Boulevard and White Street in Key West, and sponsored by the Key West Southernmost Runners club. Earth-friendly recyclable awards are to be given to the top overall male and female, top masters male and female and first- and second-place runners in each age group ranging from 9 and under to 70-plus. Additional awards await top 5k walk finishers.
Final registration and race packet pickup at the park is set for 5-7 p.m. Friday, April 5, or on race day at 7 a.m. The race begins at 8 a.m.
Earth Day Movie Festival: Participants age 14 and over pay a $15 advance registration fee or $20 on race day, while participants age 13 and under pay $10 in advance or $15 on race day. Race T-shirts are to be given to the first 100 registered participants. Proceeds benefit the Friends and Volunteers of Refuges organization. To register, visit www.southernmostrunners.com/applications/ED5KRegistration-13.pdf
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is to present an Earth Day Movie Festival Saturday, April 20, at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center at 35 East Quay Road in Key West. Starting at 10 a.m., the series of six hour-long films is produced by the World Ocean Observatory and Compass Light Films and highlights ocean climate, energy and biodiversity. They include “Ocean Day: The Copenhagen Climate Talks,” “Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification,” “Exploring Bloody Wall,” “Census of Marine Life: Approach & Findings,” “Ocean Energy Innovators” and “Dark Horizon,” with the last film scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.
Admission to the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center is free. For information, visit floridakeys.noaa.gov/eco_discovery.html.
Other Florida Keys Activities
Keys visitors can “take a pledge” in the Got Your Bags? Florida Keys campaign, which encourages the voluntary reduction of single-use plastic bags and the adoption of reusable bags to decrease marine debris and litter in the Keys.
The grass-roots initiative was launched in cooperation with the Keys’ Green Living & Energy Education organization, a local nonprofit dedicated to education and promoting sustainable living in the Keys.
Residents and visitors who sign a pledge at First State Bank at MM 30.5 in Big Pine Key — the program’s first designated pledge station — are to receive a complimentary reusable shopping bag donated by the bank and Save-A-Turtle. The latter’s mission is to preserve and protect rare and endangered marine turtles. For more information, visit www.keysglee.com/gyb.
Visitors who want to do something good for the environment beyond Earth Day and add an enriching element to their next Florida Keys vacation can connect and get involved with voluntourism opportunities through a new website at www.keysvoluntourism.com.
The site provides direct links to a variety of Florida Keys charities, nonprofit organizations and foundations — all dedicated to protecting and improving the quality of human and animal life in the island chain — that are seeking volunteers.
Keys travelers can give back to the destination and its unique ecosystems with such activities as helping build an underwater coral nursery or planting corals on actual reefs, collecting reef fish populations data, assisting with yard work or minor repairs at an outdoor tropical garden facility, feeding injured wild birds or mending their cages, cleaning or maintaining nature paths or trails, or even helping with fundraising events.
Florida Keys green travel information: www.fla-keys.com/greentravel