October 4, 2017

ROB O'NEAL/The Citizen
The beaches at Bahia Honda State Park suffered heavy erosion during Hurricane Irma. Among the state parks, Bahia Honda suffered the worst of the damage from the hurricane, sustaining severe flooding, storm surge, wind and possibly tornado damage.

ROB O'NEAL/The Citizen The beaches at Bahia Honda State Park suffered heavy erosion during Hurricane Irma. Among the state parks, Bahia Honda suffered the worst of the damage from the hurricane, sustaining severe flooding, storm surge, wind and possibly tornado damage.

Florida Keys state parks remain closed indefinitely in the wake of Hurricane Irma, but crews are working feverishly to reopen them.

Bahia Honda State Park suffered the worst of the damage from Hurricane Irma, sustaining severe flooding, storm surge, wind and possibly tornado damage.

Campgrounds, parking lots, roads, pavilions, and bathrooms are “demolished and completely washed away,” Park Manager Erick Kieffer said. The nature center lost its roof and suffered severe water damage, and will have to be “completely gutted and redone,” he said.

The bayside cabins lost their roofs and sustained water damage, Kieffer said. There has been damage to the electrical system and beach erosion park-wide, he said.

Ten staff members and contracted crews are clearing debris and assessing damage, Kieffer said Tuesday.

“We are in the cleanup phase now and getting to the buildings, getting the trees removed and getting the roads open,” Kieffer said. “We are going to open the park as soon as we can and as soon as it is safe.”

Cleanup crews are focused on large swaths of downed trees and moving sand on the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park this week. Storm surge was not an issue at the park, even though sand, rock and coral were piled up as high as the picnic tables where the beach meets the Australian pines.

A waterspout or small tornado took out a grove of pines and other trees on the southwest section of the park.

They are working with the local group “Save Our Pines” on salvaging and righting as many of the fallen pines and other trees, Park Manager Tony Knott said.

“If there is a way to save them, we will,” Knott said.

The park remains closed as workers clear debris and pile it up in a clearing near the fort.

“We are focusing on the big, dangerous stuff first and then we will get to the more subtle stuff later,” Knott said. “Right now, we can’t have crews in here working and people in here visiting. We are as anxious to open it as people are to come visit. We are making great strides.”

tohara@keysnews.com