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. Toys 'R' Us files for bankruptcy but keeps stores open (w/video)


    NEW YORK — Toys 'R' Us, the big box toy retailer struggling with $5 billion in debt and intense online competition, has filed for bankruptcy protection ahead of the key holiday shopping season — and says its stores will remain open for business as usual.

    Shoppers shop in a Toys R Us store on Black Friday in Miami in 2016. Toys R Us, the pioneering big box toy retailer, announced late Monday, Sept. 18, 2017 it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while continuing with normal business operations. [Associated Press]
  2. Trigaux: Waiting for your next pay raise? Keep dreaming, employers hint

    Working Life

    The economy's bouncing back. The stock market keeps hitting new records. And the jobless rate in Florida may soon drop below 4 percent. Surely, these are robust indicators — key signs that an annual raise is just around the corner. Right?

    Who doesn't want a pay raise? Demonstrators have rallied for years in a number of states for a $15 minimum wage. But many workers across a broad pay range are unlikely to see much if any raises this year, a new survey says. [AP Photo/Seth Wenig]
  3. Florida Guard scales down troop strength; Navy sails away from the Keys

    State Roundup

    The Florida National Guard on Monday drew down its activated statewide forces to about 1,200 on-duty troops, mostly in operations focused on relief distribution in the Florida Keys — and the last of a mini-armada of U.S. Navy ships off Key West set sail for home.

    Soldiers from the Florida National Guard's Delta Company, 1st Battallion, 124th Infantry, 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team on Sept. 14. The Federal Emergency Managment Agency has reported that 25-percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed and 65-percent sustained major damage when they took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma.  [Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images]
  4. LOCALE Market hosting St. Pete job fair for hospitality positions


    ST. PETERSBURG — Locale Market / FarmTable Kitchen is hosting a hospitality job fair Tuesday in St. Petersburg. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the LOCALE Market at 179 2nd Ave. North, St. Petersburg. Organizers said they hope to hire about 20 workers with a focus on displaced workers from Hurricane …

    Locale Market is hosting job fair on Tues., Feb. 19. [LARA CERRI | Times] 

  5. So far, 335,000 Irma claims totalling $1.95 billion filed in Florida


    Times Staff Writer

    As of Sunday afternoon, insurers had received a total of 335,347 claims statewide for insured damage totalling $1.95 billion caused by Hurricane Irma, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reported Monday based on preliminary figures.

    This shows a damaged mobile home inside Clover Leaf Farms RV Park in Brooksville. So far, insurers have received a total of 335,347 claims statewide for insured damage totalling $1.95 billion caused by Hurricane Irma.
[MEGAN REEVES   |   Times]