Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando commissioners favor state park for ecotourism center

BROOKSVILLE — After weeks of back-and-forth talks between residents and the county, Hernando County commissioners have decided to focus on Weeki Wachee Springs State Park as the site for the Nature Coast Education and Tourism Center.

The motion was passed tentatively Tuesday, pending results of a meeting today with a park planner from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Commissioners left room for flexibility to consider three other proposed sites in the Weekiwachee Preserve if the state and county can't come to a suitable agreement on details such as access and parking.

"If they feel like they can meet those stipulations, then we should move forward with Weeki Wachee Springs," Commissioner Diane Rowden said before the vote. "It is the trademark. It is Hernando County."

The alternate sites include the Lake House in Spring Hill and three locations in the preserve, which is west of U.S. 19 and south of Weeki Wachee.

Some commissioners and residents showed apprehensive support for sites in the preserve. But most were adamantly opposed, fearing that traffic would clog Osowaw and Shoal Line boulevards and create an environmental plight for the preserve.

Opening the access road off Osowaw to the preserve would be "more environmentally impacting than any of the other alternatives you guys have looked at," said Kevin Love, a retired Southwest Florida Water Management District land manager.

Most residents favored the state park site, including Mac Davis, president of the Gulf Coast Conservancy. Davis said the park would work for multiple reasons. It's already a proven public attraction, major infrastructure is in place and it's in a prominent, accessible location.

Brooksville resident Tina Henize agreed, but requested that commissioners not dip into the county's environmentally sensitive lands funds to come up with the $3 million match for the state's funding for the center.

Others introduced their own plans for the site. Mike Liberton of Ridge Manor suggested merging with the Chinsegut Conservation Center north of Brooksville. Another resident, Richard Ross, thought a spot in the Withlacoochee State Forest off Interstate 75 would lure more travelers off the highway.

"This is supposed to be a tourist draw as I understand it," Ross said. "The reality is … the only way Hernando County has to get tourists is one exit off 75 — Exit 301."

Commissioners, however, agreed that the state park would be the ideal location.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance," Chairman Wayne Dukes said. "Let's get it right the first time."

Contact Kathryn Varn at or (352)754-6114. Follow @kathrynvarn.

Hernando commissioners favor state park for ecotourism center 07/08/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 10:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No easy answer to the Dunedin parking question

    Local Government

    DUNEDIN — Nothing has been more divisive in this city than the issue of paid parking.

    A server at Cafe Alfresco (background) claims Dunedin's new paid parking has cost him money. Dunedin began a paid parking last October. Nine months in, residents, business owners and city officials all share mixed feelings. In October, when the one-year program ends, the city will have until November to come up with another solution to its parking woes, or continue the paid parking program at the risk of angering locals.JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning, Amalie Arena to host job fair today


    TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning and its home, Amalie Arena, are hosting a part-time job fair from 3 to 6 p.m. today on the Promenade Level of the arena. Available positions include platinum services, parking attendants, event security, housekeeping, retail and many other departments.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning and AMALIE Arena is hosting a part-time job fair on Thursday, Aug. 17 on the Promenade level of the arena.
  3. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  4. Trump strategist Steve Bannon: No military solution in North Korea


    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon says there's no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president's recent pledge to answer further aggression with "fire and fury."

    Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, has drawn fire from some of Trump's closest advisers. [Associated Press]
  5. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press