Here’s an update of what’s been happening on Big Pine Key.
Since the beginning, Big Pine Key has relied on septic tanks, cesspits, and other onsite disposal systems to manage our waste. The effort to convert the island to sewer is currently underway and you can expect to see signs of the change during your next visit.
The Cudjoe Regional project stretches from mile marker 17 on Sugarloaf Key to mile marker 33 on Big Pine Key. It is the most geographically complex piece of the project and the costliest, at $170 million.The verdict is still out on what’s going to happen to 43 homes on No Name Key, a community that up until a few years ago wasn’t even hooked up to the electrical grid.
We at the BPKFL are optimistic about the positive change this will bring to the island. Early testing has shown that in locations where residents and businesses are hooked up to the sewer system, water quality appears to be improving.
New Visitor Center Under Construction
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is building a new Big Pine Key visitor center. The Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex visitor center now is in the Winn-Dixie plaza on Key Deer Boulevard. About 25,000 people visit the center each year.
A new 1,840-square-foot center is under construction on U.S. 1 at 30587 Overseas Highway. It will include a display area and the book store, two offices and classroom space for schools. There also would be a native plant nursery and pollinator garden, and a trail system on a neighboring two acres.
New World Screwworm Hits Big Pine Key
As of the end of October, screwworm flies caused the euthanization of nearly 10 percent of the endangered Key deer population. Screwworm flies were found on Big Torch, Middle Torch, Little Torch, Cudjoe and Ramrod keys.
Screwworm flies lay their eggs in open wounds where larvae hatch and feed, basically eating the deer alive. Many of the deer wounds are believed to come from rutting — males battling each other for mates.
USDA entomologists are battling the screwworm on several fronts, including the release of millions of sterile screwworm flies on Big Pine and No Name to mate with female flies. Female screwworm flies mate only once in their lifetime, storing male sperm to fertilize eggs in the future, so if the female mates with a sterile male the life cycle is broken. The process of getting the worms under control in expected to take six months.
A pet inspection checkpoint was instituted at mile marker 106 in Key Largo to inspect pets for signs of the screwworm and prevent the spread of the worms.
Winn-Dixie and Cocos Get Upgraded
Winn-Dixie recently completed a remodel on its Big Pine Key store, located at 251 Key Deer Blvd. In addition to improving the layout and functionality of the store, they have also added a liquor store in a separate until close to the main store.
These changes also coincided with Coco’s move into a new location in the same plaza. The counter has been replaced with more table seating and the same great food you remember.