Hurricane Irma – Marathon, Florida
Marathon Florida is a small town, in the heart of the Florida Keys. This island community all began in the early 1900’s with a crazy idea to build a railway through a complete tropical wilderness to connect Key West to the rest of Florida. Workers were shipped in from all over the country and world to complete the project. Towards the end of construction of the railway, Henry Flagler (7-mile bridge financier and visionary) was nearing death. Workers were toiling away for 12 hours on and 12 hours off to complete the bridge before Flagler died. The men working the crew began saying ‘this project is becoming a real “marathon”‘ and the name stuck.
Marathon residents were, for the most part, very hard working people before Hurricane Irma but, post-Hurricane Irma, I feel that we have really reclaimed and re-earned the name Marathon. I have never seen so many people working so hard from sun up to sun down. Every one of them working towards the same goal- rebuilding our home. It is very heartbreaking to see the devastation but at the same time witnessing the community coming alive to serve others has been one of the most inspiring and hopeful things that I have seen in my lifetime.
“Getting Closer, but not quite normal yet…”
“Getting Closer, but not quite normal yet…” reads the heading on the post Irma menu at the Hurricane Grille in Marathon. This sentiment really sums up the state of things here. There is really no sugarcoating how hard the middle Keys got hit by Hurricane Irma. But anyone who knows me knows that I am always looking for the silver lining. The photo above is of our neighborhood trash pile. Visitors and residents can find similar trash piles in just about every neighborhood throughout the Keys post-Hurricane Irma. Despite the debris, residents do not have to look very far to see how much progress is being made on a daily basis. There are major strides happening on humanitarian and ecological fronts and every day it gets a little bit better!
The Human Front
Community members are coming together to help one another. Work starts early and ends late. People are shifting out of their normal roles and into whatever role is most needed, post-Hurricane Irma. There are people from many walks of life now working to rebuild Marathon after Hurricane Irma. Tourism jobs are all on hold. Many of us are finding work in the rebuilding process. For example, The demo crew I was working with included 2 boat captains, a property manager, a restaurant manager, a friend from New York, a scuba instructor, and me (a kayak tour guide). I am no stranger to hard work but this Hurricane Irma clean up work takes it to the next level. Everyone feels that the faster we get done rebuilding the faster we can get back to our normal lives- living in paradise and doing what we love. No one has time for doom and gloom or whining. There is so much to be done and tourists are on the way!
There is one big issue that I have heard many legitimate complaints about and that is affordable housing! This Housing Crisis Article breaks it down for anyone who is interested.
The Ecological Front
The Keys ecosystem has spent thousands of years adapting to the storms that come with living in the tropics. In fact, hurricane season can actually be a good thing for the marine environment. Dead growth is cleared out and nutrients are stirred up by winds and waves. As a result of extra nutrients/food in the ocean caused by Hurricane Irma, animals at the bottom of the food chain are thriving. This boom of bottom feeders is good news for all of the predators out there that rely on healthy populations of bait fish and bottom dwellers to survive.
What the ecosystem has not had thousands of years to adapt to is the human element. Many of the biggest obstacles that the ecosystem will have to overcome are human-caused or at the least aggravated by human impacts. The good news is that nature is very resilient and tenacious.
I have been seeing more green, new growth every day! Since Hurricane Irma, we have gotten loads of rain which is a major lifesaver for the flora and fauna of the Keys. The rain provides fresh drinking water for the birds and of course, the beloved Key Deer! The fall migratory bird season has begun for the Florida Keys! We have been seeing all sorts of migratory birds passing thru for their yearly visit. There are also reports of plentiful fish stocks (in certain locations) in addition to manatee sightings throughout the Florida Keys! I would say, overall the outlook for the recovery of the ecosystem after Irma is positive. For updates on the Key Deer and other wildlife of the Florida Keys check out Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex website.
“You Can’t Drown a Conch”
Marathon will rebuild and we will be stronger than ever. This storm has been a huge learning experience and has really brought this community together. I believe in letting Mother Nature do her thing to heal the ecosystem. In the mean time, I will be doing my part to help on humanitarian and ecological fronts in any way that I can. Like they say- “time heals all wounds”. The people and ecology of Marathon are all counting on this to be true! I also believe in the power of positive thought. I spend a lot of my time thinking about getting back out on the water with my guests!
Would you like to reminisce with me on all of the fun times we had kayaking in the Keys, pre-Hurricane Irma? If so, check out some of my favorite blog posts!-http://flkeyskayak.com/blog If you would like to book a tour please head to our contact page and fill out the contact form. We have extremely high hopes of being back in operation by the last week in October! We will be updating the website with any news or changes that may occur in the coming weeks. Here’s to getting back to paddles in the water and smiles on my guests faces!
For those of you that reached out to AquaVentures expressing your concern before, during, or after Hurricane Irma- The love was felt! Every text, email and voicemail was greatly appreciated. Just knowing that people were thinking of us during these uncertain times was a comfort.