Make us your home page

What should Weeki Wachee Springs State Park become?

I once wrote a column calling the Weeki Wachee mermaids "tacky.''

It was not, as they say in this business, well received.

My wife basically told me I was an idiot; Howard Troxler, the dean of Florida newspaper columnists, sent me a message asking if I also thought Mount Rushmore was tacky — which I took to mean he agreed with my wife. Months later, a reader I'd just met accosted me with this question:

"Why do you hate the mermaids?''

I don't, really. But, having sat through so many of their shows in usually futile attempts to entertain visitors and small children, I don't particularly care to see one again. Ever.

And there's this: When I think of a state park, which Weeki Wachee Springs has been for more than a year now, I think of something more natural than water slides and a slightly sexist entertainment relic that could reasonably be termed …

Okay. Better stop there. Besides, I really want to move on from my opinion to yours. That's what is important here. State parks are maintained with your taxes and admission fees. As long as no environmental ruin is involved, the public should get to decide what goes on there.

And now is the time.

Unless the process is hijacked by Joe Mason's request for $1.24 million in legal fees, the state Legislature seems to be ready to disband the city of Weeki Wachee.

So, finally, maybe, Weeki Wachee can be run as a park and only a park.

Also, the state has already said it wants to hear from you — said it almost a year ago, as a matter of fact. It held a public meeting Jan. 20 to record ideas for the future of the park. It plans to hold another soon, according to parks spokeswoman Jessica Kemper Sims, then draw up a plan.

Up until now, as far as I know, everything the state has done at Weeki Wachee has been perfectly responsible.

Exotic animal shows have been scrapped in favor of educational ones featuring Florida natives, such as alligators. To keep the buildings from further damage, almost all of them have either received new roofs or are receiving them. When I visited last week, there were so many nail guns firing, it sounded like a firing range.

But, if I had to guess, I'd bet the state doesn't do anything terribly different or imaginative with this incredible feature, one of the biggest springs in the state and the deepest in the United States.

For one reason, messing with the home of the mermaids could be political suicide — as I well know.

For another, most of the comments the park received in January suggested subtle changes or none at all. Keep Buccaneer Bay, one speaker said; the county's kids need a place to swim. Another called the mermaid shows an important "cultural attribute.''

Maybe you agree. Or maybe you'd have a bold, fresh vision, like the woman who wanted to see part of the park turned into a botanical garden. A natural experience within exhaust-sniffing distance of U.S. 19? That might be one way.

This is a marquee attraction. Hopefully you have an opinion, a creative one, and I'd like to hear it. I'll go through every one and report back. Maybe even ask for a vote on the ones you like best.

So go ahead. Add a comment to this story, send me an e-mail at or call me at (352) 754-6116.

Just be careful what you say about the mermaids.

What should Weeki Wachee Springs State Park become? 12/19/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 20, 2009 12:33am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa is 15th-most popular city to move to with U-Haul


    TAMPA —Tampa is undoubtedly a destination point, at least according to U-Haul.

    Tampa is the No. 15 destination for people moving with U-Haul trucks. | Times file photo
  2. Florida's economy growing faster than other big states and far better than U.S. overall


    When it comes to economic growth, Florida's running alongside the leading states and well ahead of the United States as a whole.

  3. Westshore Marina District project takes shape with another acquisition

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — One of Tampa Bay's prime waterfront areas took another major step toward redevelopment Friday as WCI Communities bought 2.35 acres in Westshore Marina District.

    WCI Communities, Lennar's high-end subsidiary,has paid $2.5 million for 2.35 acres in the Westshore Marina District for 35 townhomes. WCI is under contract  to buy an additional 9.5 acres.
[BTI Partners]
  4. Posh Guy Harvey RV park to open in Tampa Bay with $250,000 cottages


    HOLIDAY — Love those Guy Harvey T-shirts with the soaring marlins? In the not too distant future, you might be able to kick back in your own Guy Harvey cottage in the first-ever Guy Harvey RV park.

    Renderings of the clubhouse and an RV cottage site of the planned Guy Harvey Outpost Club & Resort Tarpon Springs.
[Guy Harvey Outpost Collection]
  5. Port Tampa Bay secures $9 million grant to deepen Big Bend Channel


    Port Tampa Bay has secured a $9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel in southern Hillsborough County.