Tuesday, January 16, 2018
News Roundup

DeWitt: Hernando doesn't need the RV rally

Gobble, gobble. Gimme, Gimme.

Shockingly, the representatives of a hobby that equates fun with crass consumption has presented the county with a list of lots and lots of stuff it wants.

Sorry, needs.

Jim Duncan, president of the Southeast Area Family Motor Coach Association, sent Hernando County a letter recently cataloging the group's demands, a letter in which the word "need," or "needed," appears five times in two brief paragraphs.

In the third and final paragraph, Duncan switches gears slightly and refers to the requested amenities at the county airport as "necessities," which might be a surprise to the many families out there worried about putting food on the table.

Anyway, here's the list:

One thousand "or more" 1,250-square-foot spaces for recreational vehicles; electric, sewer and water hookups for "at least" half of these spaces; four dump stations, and two buildings — the first one big enough for 300 vendors, all of whom will need electrical outlets, and a second one "seating 2,000 to 3,000 people for entertainment purposes."

"That's a huge building," said Tommy Mara, owner of Spring Hill's Palace Grand, which, for comparison's sake, seats about 400. Even a regional landmark such as Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall would barely be big enough to satisfy the motor coachers: It seats about 2,200.

Duncan was decent enough to acknowledge that one final request was slightly less than imperative: "Improved access to the airport without planes … would certainly be a positive."

Presumably, he's talking about plane-free access and not a plane-free airport. Still, considering that planes are what the place is all about, it comes off as pretty nervy.

Speaking of which, this is Duncan's ultimatum: If Hernando doesn't meet the association's demands, the rally that the organization has held at the airport for 16 years — and that will move to Sarasota County next year — will go away forever.

Duncan did try to put a more positive spin on the situation — and came off looking even nervier: If we do what the motor coachers ask, he wrote, they will continue to "grace" us with their rally.

Funny, I never felt graced by descending swarms of bus-sized RVs, some of them pulling large SUVs. I also never thought the rally was as much of an economic blessing as people said.

With all the stuff at the rally — all the granite countertops and cherry-wood paneling and half-million-dollar coaches to ogle — many RVers were happy to spend most of their time there. Even more of them will feel that way if the county is foolish enough to build an indoor market for 300 vendors.

Still, a decade ago, when the rally drew more than 2,000 coaches, it definitely did put some customers in restaurants and stores.

By this year, however, attendance had dwindled to 574. And though the organizers offered lots of excuses, including a lack of amenities, I think the real reason is simpler.

This hobby's time has passed. More weird weather will make more people realize that the planet really is warming and that the guzzling of fossil fuels is making it worse. It will no longer be fashionable to have a mobile retirement home that gets 7 miles to the gallon.

I mean, really, who needs that?

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