With a predicted growth of 2750%, Weeki Wachee will be one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. The tiny town that currently holds 3 residents, grew out of the roadside attraction, started by Newt Perry in 1947. It shows up on maps after it incorporated in 1966, offering free advertising for the attraction.
The City of Mermaids is located on 640 acres and is mainly known for the attraction and its first-magnitude spring, that were only recently made part of the new Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. The park includes water rides, animal shows, mermaid costume shows and manatee watching.
Under continuous pressure from the state, the little city has decided to build an 86-unit apartment complex and expand its population base and thus avoid being decertified by the state for having too few residents. This will cause an enormous population growth that, in time, may help to pay down the city’s debt and again, make it more attractive to be swallowed up by the county.
2014 was the 6 million dollar year, that wasn’t. It was a year full of misdirected intentions, unresearched locations and vaguely described plans for something that would be a tourism center, an education center, a swimming area or any combination of the three. The State of Florida allocated $3 million of matching funds for Hernando County and ever since, the county has struggled to find the right location for a building, that nobody seems to want.
The first site was in Hernando Beach, a place where the regular tourist isn’t found and the swimming area wasn’t part of the plans.
After a major upset of the locals, the county decided to up its plans by picking a venue in the Weeki Wachee Preserve and adding the incentive of a public swimming area. All this in an area that was previously set aside to prevent development and to form the southern end of the coastal corridor, where the protected, threatened and endangered Florida Black Bear finds its home.
Subsequently, locations were found next to the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and one close to the I-75 in East Hernando County, where swimming areas and education centers were suddenly less important.
Most recently, the county reverted back close to the original location in Hernando Beach at the old Hernando Beach water tower, a site that the county already owns, but with the same opposition of the locals.
After almost a year of trying to spend the “free money”, the Hernando County Commission voted to return the $3 million the Florida Legislature allocated for the project last year.
Is this however the end of the story or are we waiting for another allocation from the Legislature this year? If so, we should hope that need is at the basis of those plans and locations are appropriate, realistic and don’t interfere with current designations.
THE HERNANDO COUNTY’S NEW NATURE COAST EDUCATION AND TOURISM CENTER HAS MANY SUPPORTERS, YET FINDING AN APPROPRIATE LOCATION HAS BEEN PROBLEMATIC.
The $6 million center was initially proposed to be located at Blue Pelican Marina in Hernando Beach. The Weeki Wachee Preserve followed. After scores of residents protested in both instances, the current option is at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with the I-75 intersection in East Hernando as a backup.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officially approved adding three first-magnitude spring systems — Weeki Wachee River, Chassahowitzka River and Homosassa River — to the Surface Water Improvement Management (SWIM) Program priority list.
In January, The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) Governing Board to begin the process of officially adding those systems to the existing SWIM Program priority list which includes two first magnitude spring systems; Rainbow River and Crystal River/Kings Bay. With the DEP’s approval, all five of the District’s first magnitude springs are now on the SWIM Program priority list.
District staff will now craft a SWIM management plan for each of the first magnitude springs systems with the newly formed Springs Coast Steering Committee to identify management actions, estimated costs, and responsibilities. Staff will then implement the strategies with our District partners.
Improving northern coastal spring systems is one of the District’s priorities. Adding these springs on the District’s SWIM list allows the District to better prioritize projects, programs, and funding to improve the water resources. These spring groups are important for their ecological value and their economic impact.
A first-magnitude spring or spring group discharges 64.6 million gallons of water per day or more. Together, all five of the District’s first-magnitude springs discharge more than one billion gallons of water per day.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District News Release – August 18, 2014
ON MONDAY GOV. RICK SCOTT SIGNED THE NEW STATE BUDGET, WHICH INCLUDES $3 MILLION FUNDING FOR HERNANDO COUNTY TO BUILD A NATURE COAST EDUCATION AND TOURISM CENTER ON A LOCATION WITHIN THE WEEKI WACHEE PRESERVE.
This annual community fundraising fest features lots of live entertainment that includes, dance and music in addition to a great variety of arts & craft vendors. Great food and beverages await your taste buds and the proceeds will benefit local non-profit community groups.
Location: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Fri-Sat. March 7-8, 2014 – 9am to 5pm
Sun. March 9, 2014 – 9am to 4pm
Admission: $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 6-11 and free for 5 and under.
No dogs or alcohol allowed.
Free parking at Sand Hill Scout Reservation with shuttle service to the Swamp Fest. For more info, call (352) 556-5807 or (352) 597-4424 or go to www.swampfestweekiwachee.com.
On Saturday, February 1st., the Audubon Society will host the annual sparrow drive in the Weeki Wachee Preserve in Hernando County. The goal is to flush sparrows and capture them in mist nests for banding.
Volunteers will walk in lines through the grass and short shrubs, flushing sparrows and other grassland birds into a long line of mist nets for capture and banding. You will be able to see and photograph wintering grassland sparrows up close as birds are removed from mist nets and at the banding station on site. Terrain is uneven ground with grass and most shrubs not more than thigh-high on a 6′ tall person.
Common captures are Henslow’s, Le Conte’s, Grasshopper, Swamp, and Savannah sparrows.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission seeks your help to increase their understanding of the Florida black bear’s range and activity. The FWC biologists hope that involving the public, will help them to get additional data on the local bear population.
All bear sightings and especially those of female bears and their cubs are welcome.
As fall has arrived, and pleasant temperatures lure you back to the wild ares of Florida, all those hikers, kayakers, bird-watchers and hunters should report any bear tracks or encounters and submit their information or photo’s to the FWC’s website.
The growing human population in this state puts an ever increasing pressure on the already limited and isolated areas of bear habitat. Improved knowledge and better preservation will help us to better coexist with these elusive animals!
On the water at 8 AM to avoid the crowds that appear two hours later. I like to kayak the lower parts of the river first (above the major housing developments around Rogers Park); here, most of the Weeki Wachee is surrounded by Federal and State lands which remain in a natural state.
As an added bonus, on Sunday morning the traffic on nearby roads is minimal, thus little or no traffic noise.
This morning I can hear the silence, when the early rays of sunshine penetrate the canopy. Being quiet is a virtue now; only paddles sliding through the water, and a distant screech of an owl, disturbed by my intrusion in his territory.
My only encounter of a manatee with calf is at the junction with channel 13; they did not approach me, so I was quickly on my way to the Weeki Wachee spring at a distance of about 5 miles.
Except for a few schools of fish and a couple of turtles, no other animals were encountered. Flowering plants can be found throughout the year and today was no exception. Half way upriver, I encounter the first groups of paddlers that enter the river at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Unfortunately, this means an end to my quiet trip, but another hour against a steady flow of water. The water levels are higher lately, probably because of the summer rains and the river is narrowing in many places, where the trees are hanging over the river and maneuvering around half-submerged trees sometimes is a little tricky.
The 3rd Annual Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge will be held this September in the Weeki Wachee Spring, where spectators can watch the races in addition to the regularly scheduled mermaid shows from the underwater theater of the State Park.
The Wreck Racing League organizes the event, in honor of our wounded veterans. Formula H2O® is the exciting underwater sport which features scuba divers racing on diver propulsion vehicle’s (DPV). The Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge will combines this thrilling new sport with specialized SCUBA training and competitive underwater events created specifically for veterans who have been injured while serving in the United States armed forces.
This three day event provides specialized SCUBA training and benefits the non-profit organization SOF Bionic Warriors, which provides assistance to wounded veterans and families of U.S. Special Operations forces. SCUBA diving exhibitors, equipment manufacturers, and veterans all come out for this event.
It all happens from September 20th thru 22nd, 2013, with the first day dedicated to specialized dive training followed by a full day of race practice. Sunday 22nd is the final race day, when all the divers will compete in their own class.