BROOKSVILLE — Three years ago, Hernando County spent $1.3-million on an 80-acre property just west of Brooksville whose true value, many feel, is far beyond its price.
Today, the environmentally sensitive watershed known as Peck Sink is slowly undergoing a transformation from a once-neglected backwoods dumping ground into a pristine gem that the community can enjoy.
Ron Pianta, county Planning Department director, said the project, which will feature both a storm water treatment system as well as a scenic park, could be ready for visitors within three years.
"The funding is already earmarked for it," he said. "All we need is the go-ahead to get started."
The time-sensitive project ran into a slight delay on Tuesday, but officials said they are not too concerned.
The county's Professional Services Review Committee recommendation to the County Commission to negotiate with King Engineering Associates to design the park met resistance from incoming Commissioner James Adkins, who said he was unfamiliar with the project.
"I'd just like to be brought up to date," said Adkins, who asked that the matter be deferred until the Dec. 2 commission meeting so that he can receive a full overview of the project.
Pianta said the delay probably won't affect the project, which is being partly funded through grants from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
"We're well ahead of the deadline to use the money," Pianta said.
Long considered one of Hernando County's most important watersheds, Peck Sink funnels surface water from a 17-square mile area that includes much of Brooksville and development-heavy areas to the south of the city into the Floridan Aquifer, which supplies the region's drinking water.
The sink's proximity to multi-lane roads such as U.S. 41 and the State Road 50 bypass west of Brooksville have made it susceptible to runoff pollution.
Making matters worse, volunteers who show up for occasional weekend cleanups often find trash, tires and other debris that have collected in the basin.
A $1.9-million state grant, coupled with money from the county's environmentally sensitive lands acquisition fund enabled it to purchase the property in 2005 from developer Charles Sasser. Additional funds from Swiftmud will be used for proposed improvements to the property.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.