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Executive Director Mill McCleary, Reef Relief Director of Marine Projects, Rudy Bonn, Key West's Mayor Craig Cates and Reef Relief Board President, Peter Anderson

Reef Relief and the City of Key West, having both adopted Resolution # 12-025, approved by the City Commission of Key West on January 4, 2012, turns over management and maintenance of Key West Marine Park (KWMP) for a period of three years.


Reef Relief founders DeeVon and Craig Quirolo first established the park in cooperation with the City of Key West and Monroe County in 2001. The marine park runs along south side of the island from the White Street Pier to the end of Duval Street, extending seaward 600 feet. The original agreement between Reef Relief and the City of Key West stated that Reef Relief would manage and maintain the park for a period of five years, and upon expiration of the term of that agreement, the management and maintenance of the park would revert back to the City of Key West. The Spottswood Companies, Southernmost Hotel Collection, Wyndham Resorts, and funds provided by Florida’s Coastal Management Program through NOAA helped in the conception of Key West Marine Park in 2001.

In 2010, Reef Relief approached the City staff about resuming management of the Marine Park and to utilize the park and its resources as an educational and outreach tool to visitors and local residents alike focusing on the importance of protecting and conserving the marine environment of the Florida Keys.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a Letter of Consent to the City to turn responsibility for the park over to Reef Relief.


The living marine environment of the protected ~ 40 acre park include sea grass meadows which serve as nursery habitat to a variety of fishes and invertebrates; they also serve to trap bottom sediments and prevent their re-suspension.

The park’s live bottom habitats provide a firm substrate for the attachment of benthic organisms such as sponges, sea fans, and sea whips; mobile organisms such as sea cucumbers, sea urchins, sea stars, worms, and others are also found here and are specially adapted for survival in this particular environment.

Stony corals are also present within the boundaries of the marine park, especially along the southern edge of the old Higgs Beach Pier where they find suitable substrate for attachment and growth.

Fishes are also plentiful with a variety of different species occupying the various niches found within the marine park. While snorkeling through the marine park, one may encounter nurse sharks, snappers, groupers, grunts, butterfly and angel fishes, and the invasive lion fish. The opportunities for video and still photography of these resources are excellent when you consider that the maximum depth of the park is ~10 feet.


These living marine resources and their associated habitats will be interpreted to the public through educational signage, brochures, and a nature center through a partnership with Monroe County and the Higgs Beach Development Project.

Threats to these resources, along with current mitigation and restoration strategies will also be interpreted to those utilizing this unique educational and outreach tool. Climate change and its possible affects is one example of the treats facing these systems.

Reef Relief’s primary goal is the protection and conservation of coral reef ecosystems. One of our main objectives in accomplishing that goal is to raise awareness of the need to protect and conserve these vital resources among the general public and to those that depend on a healthy marine environment such as the fishermen, the charter boat fleets, the dive shops, and all the other businesses that are dependent upon a sustainable marine environment.

KWMP provides us with the opportunity to accomplish this important goal in a very unique setting—direct observation and interpretation of the living marine resources of the Florida Keys.


The official dedication of Key West Marine Park will be Saturday March 31, 2012 at Salute’ on the Beach. From 6-10pm Reef Relief will celebrate our 25th Anniversary. With special guest Howard Livingston and Mile Marker 24, Salute’s will provide food and cash bar. Tickets are available now for $15 and $20 at the door. Proceeds will benefit Reef Relief’s the marine park and other Reef Relief programs.

Reef Relief depends upon your support, please visit our web site,, and learn how you can become a part of this vitally important effort to protect and conserve our coral reef ecosystem for both present and future generations.