WEEKI WACHEE — Engraved bricks have proven a popular means of fundraising for clubs and organizations. Now, Friends of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is joining the endeavor, targeting people who want to cement their relationship with the park and pave the way for improvements at the 538-acre home of the famous mermaids.
For a designated donation, supporters can purchase a personalized brick that will be incorporated into a new Florida-friendly landscape design surrounding the fountain at the park's entrance. As sales mount, more personalized pavers will enhance walkways throughout the park, said Friends president Denise Tenuto.
"Walkways could use some improvements," Tenuto said, "(and) the park could use some improvements."
Work on the fountain facelift began Monday.
Dubbed Brick Friend Forever, the project invites patrons to donate $125 for a 4- by 8-inch brick with up to three lines of text. For $200, a donor can have an 8-inch square paver laid, bearing six lines of text.
Nearly 200,000 visitors passed through the entrance last year, noted Friends board member Sylvia Durell. The number points out the ample opportunity for brick purchases.
Personalized markers at other facilities suggest bricks at the park might mention: "Met Here," "We Splashed" or "Swam with Mermaids."
While the Friends group is just launching the campaign, members of the organization already have ordered their own bricks, Tenuto noted. The first of the engraved pavers likely will be installed in about a month. They will replace unmarked bricks being laid at the outset.
Beyond the fountain area, Friends has identified numerous cracks in concrete walks and unmatched patches in the floor of the 400-seat mermaid theater as areas in need of improvement.
"This will be an ongoing project," Tenuto said.
In the meantime, other volunteers at the park are nearing completion on new boardwalks in the vicinity of the sightseeing boat landing along the first-magnitude spring's egress and toward what will be a relocated and enlarged animal encounter area. Octogenarian volunteer Joe Skinner has been the main force on the boardwalk construction.
To date, animal encounters at the park have been confined to daily showtimes when interpreters present the likes of native reptiles and fowl to visitors. When volunteers complete refurbishments to an existing barn, the wildlife will be on continuous display, said ranger John Athanason. No deadline has been set for the move.
"We're at the mercy of the volunteers," Athanason said.
In that same area, the Friends group has labored throughout the winter to remove invasive weeds such as air potato, bamboo and Boston fern. Eventually, members plan to establish butterfly gardens there.
At the park entrance, Tenuto pointed out that the landscape will serve as a demonstration garden, showcasing native drought-tolerant plants such as hollies, palmettos, cord grass and sable palms. They will require minimal maintenance, no pesticides and no fertilizer, she said, excellent protection for the spring. Drip irrigation will be provided, but the system is the least prone to water evaporation, Tenuto noted.
The Friends' efforts all are being done in conjunction with a landscape master plan drawn by the Florida Park Service.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.