June 16, 2022 — For Immediate Release

Media contact: Mark Songer (305) 394-3807 info@keyslaststand.org

The board of directors of Last Stand has unanimously endorsed a YES vote on the Key West Botanical Garden referendum question on the August 23, 2022, election ballot. It proposes to provide the Key West Botanical Garden Society a lease for up to 99-years for the City-owned property at 5210 College Road. The referendum requires the continued use of the property exclusively for a botanical garden and arboretum, providing public access, public recreation, and wildlife habitat.

Since 1936, the City of Key West has designated the Botanical Garden on Stock Island as a natural area for conservation. Under stewardship of the Botanical Garden Society, the garden has flourished and has become an important resource for Key West residents and visitors.

The Botanical Garden Society has a proven track record as an effective steward of the Garden. The volunteer board of directors is composed of locals with a passion for the Botanical Garden’s mission. Over the years, it has invested over $2 million in improvements to the Garden, including extensive boardwalks that give access to visitors of all abilities. The non-profit organization GuideStar has awarded the Botanical Garden Society its highest platinum rating for excellent stewardship of donations and corporate governance.

To open more opportunities for long-term grant funding, the Botanical Garden Society needs to demonstrate stability for the years ahead. The Key West Charter requires a referendum vote in order to enter a 99-year lease, because the proposed action is, in effect, disposition of land by the City, requiring voter approval.

An emphasis on native plant species, both in the Garden and available from the nursery store, promote habitat that is vital to threatened and endangered species. Native host plants for butterflies and tropical fruiting trees enhance the visitor experience and provide a food source for birds and other wildlife. The garden is an important stop-over spot for migratory birds. In the first six months of 2022, visitors have identified 108 different bird species in the garden

Education programs, at the garden and online, benefit children in Monroe County from pre-K through high school. The speaker series with an adult focus and Garden Guardians programs provide learning opportunities for residents and tourists.

There is no doubt that we all benefit from the Botanical Garden. Passing this referendum will help to ensure that this vital conservation resource is available for future generations to enjoy. Last Stand is urging all Key West voters to mark YES for this referendum question on the August 23rd ballot.