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Owner of Keys island sick of trespassers

Many Keys visitors and locals know Money Key as a perfect spot to anchor up and spend a sunny day in the Keys, maybe even start a fire and camp overnight.

The problem is the small island about 800 feet off the Seven Mile Bridge oceanside near mile marker 42 is privately owned, and its visitors are apparently anything but conscientious.

"The problem is these formerly pristine islands turn into trash cans. We have squatters and it's just a nuisance," said Lance Kyle, whose family has owned the island since the 1970s.

"We don't encourage camping or visitation, but people feel entitled and that it's a government property and should be accessible," he said.

Kyle says he or a couple he pays to maintain the island has removed at least two makeshift toilets from the island the past couple of years.

"There's evidence of campfires and drums with a toilet seat on top. We had 10 coconut palms out there, but people have been chopping them down and using them for firewood," he said.

Kyle added that visitors apparently did not take kindly to recent attempts to curtail nuisance visitors to the island.

"I hired a local person to go out there and they went out and put up no-trespass signs on 4-by-4 pieces of wood with concrete footers. “About two weeks ago, somebody went in there and knocked them all down. They're all smashed up," he said.

Kyle, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area and said he visits the Keys several times yearly, said he was told by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office to file a police report.

"I think everything has been just too laissez faire over the years. It's getting to the point where people are just totally disrespectful. People have just stepped up the bad-behavior aspect," he said.

Kyle met with Sheriff's Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff, who agreed to monitor the island as part of normal patrols.

But it doesn't appear that authorities are able to go out of their way to police the island. Chad Scibilia, captain at the Marathon Sheriff's Office substation, said he has limited resources.

"I have one guy and one boat.” Deputy Willy Guerra” is going to do what he can to help him out," he said.

FWC spokesman Bobby Dube said if there is "proper signage in the right place ... we'd be able to enforce it" during normal patrols.

"If we do see someone there, we can address it," he said. "We can always ask them to leave because it is private property. Nine times out of 10, they'll leave."

Kyle said he pays caretakers "$300 or $400" annually to clean the island.