Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

DeWitt: Compromise on Weekiwachee Preserve honor would make activist happy

There's been an admirable effort to rename the Weekiwachee Preserve after an admirable human being, Arline Erdrich.

Erdrich, a nationally known artist from Aripeka who died last year, was better known locally as a groundbreaking environmental activist. When she showed up on the scene 20 years ago, there had never been anyone quite like her in Hernando County.

She was tenacious. She was skilled at connecting landowners who might be willing to sell with public agencies that might have the resources to buy. She not only introduced the Hernando County Commission to what were then fairly exotic concepts — wildlife corridors and such — but got them fired up about these ideas.

Of course, it took more than activism to set aside a nearly solid strip of natural coastal land between southern Citrus and northern Pasco counties, including the 11,000-acre Weekiwachee Preserve.

It took money, mostly from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which bought the first part of the preserve in 1994.

But that money wouldn't have been available without political support, and that support wouldn't have existed if not for agitators (I mean that in a good way) such as Erdrich.

For that, she ought to be considered "a folk hero," said Beverly Coe, an old friend of Erdrich's and a longtime member of the organization Erdrich founded, the Gulf Coast Conservancy.

Coe brought up the idea of renaming the preserve at Erdrich's funeral, she said, "and the whole place went wild."

So, she started making phone calls and sending emails, and last month she sat down with land managers at Swiftmud.

By then, Coe said Erdrich didn't need sole billing. She could share it with the river on the preserve's northern border, the Weeki Wachee. Her proposed name: the Weekiwachee-Arline Erdrich Preserve.

The district didn't care for the idea and came up with a different one: Put Erdrich's name on the nearby Springs Coast Environmental Education Center and erect a plaque in the preserve explaining Erdrich's contributions.

The County Commission, on the other hand, didn't like that idea, or at least said it didn't, proclaiming at a meeting last month that it was on Coe's side. Two days later, though, on Nov. 15, commission Chairman Wayne Dukes sent a letter to Swiftmud saying the commission was okay with the district's suggestion.

Coe said this week that she is, too.

So — though the School Board, which runs the education center, will presumably have some say — it appears as though the entire matter is heading for a compromise. Which is probably for the best.

Names may not mean all that much. And it's hard not to see the irony in two public agencies that have proven lately that they don't care much for acquiring natural land now seeking to honor an advocate of it.

But names do show what we think is valuable. And if Erdrich had one message, it was that we should respect the value of natural land, even the mine-pocked scrub that covers most of the preserve.

I can't speak for her, of course. But I suspect she'd agree that the Weeki Wachee River deserves to have its name on the preserve more than one person, no matter how admirable.

DeWitt: Compromise on Weekiwachee Preserve honor would make activist happy 12/04/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 7:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson kneel during national anthem


    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings, two days after President Donald Trump made critical remarks about NFL …

    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Authorities ID man killed in Clearwater Beach boating crash; Girl, 4, still in critical condition


    An Altamonte Springs man died and a 4-year-old girl remains in critical condition Sunday morning after their personal watercraft collided with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Clearwater Beach just before 5 p.m.

  3. 'If anyone can hear us … help.' Puerto Rico's mayors describe 'horror in the streets'


    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - In the northern Puerto Rican town of Vega Baja, the floodwaters reached more than 10 feet. Stranded residents screamed "save me, save me," using the lights in their cellphones to help rescue teams find them in the darkness, the town's mayor said.

  4. My AP Top 25 ballot: FSU out, USF, Florida Gators back in


    Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher still thinks he can have a good team, as I wrote in today's Tampa Bay Times. Maybe he's right.

  5. Forecast: Scattered thunderstorms in Tampa Bay; Maria could affect Carolinas


    Scattered thunderstorms will threaten the Tampa Bay area Sunday, but most of the area will see sunshine.

    Scattered thunderstorms threaten Tampa Bay on Sunday. [Courtesy 10News WTSP]