HERNANDO BEACH — After a lapse of years, the Hernando Beach Property Owners Association has returned to two beautification projects that aim to entice and welcome visitors to the off-the-beaten-path waterfront community.
And as part of the improvements, some dolphins will be on the move.
Not the three-dolphin sculpture at Osowaw Boulevard and U.S. 19. But a pod of five dolphins once intended to welcome folks at Osowaw and Shoal Line boulevards is being raffled and will get a new home.
The smaller of the two improvement projects involves landscaping and repairs at the more visible of the two locations — along well-traveled U.S. 19, across from the waterfall entrance to Spring Hill.
Gracing the site is an original hand-hammered copper sculpture featuring three dolphins, backed by a mangrove cluster supporting two herons, created by the late artist Lewis Watkins, who had lived in Brooksville. It will stay in place, assures project chairwoman Gladys Moore.
Volunteers are removing old plantings there and relandscaping.
"We're resetting tiles and planting lower plants that will remain attractive," said Moore.
The larger project, on a 1-acre tract known as Triangle Park at Osowaw and Shoal Line, entails grubbing, sculpting terrain, landscaping, installing sidewalks and redoing signage, said Jude Simpson, the chairwoman of that effort.
The park includes a retention pond, big rocks, a tall marble sign that reads "Welcome to Tarpon Country" and a bear replica, Simpson noted.
"All of that is incorporated into a new design," she said.
The Hernando County Tourism Bureau helped to provide a new sign that reads "Welcome to Nature Coast." It will be erected nearby, along with a sign directing traffic to lodging, marinas and restaurants in the community.
And Simpson and her hardy volunteers are carrying the work even further.
"The vision is that the park is a walkers', a bikers' park, a place to sit and watch butterflies," she said.
Flowering plants will surround the bear statue. Simpson, an avid supporter of using native plants, is selecting the appropriate varieties.
The association at one time had planned to add a dolphin statue at the site. It purchased a 4-foot-tall, $3,000 commercially made bronze conglomerate of five dolphins. But it was never installed and has been in storage gathering dust for several years, Simpson said. It's too large to fit in with the new park design, she explained. Plus, the site lacks electricity to operate a fountain that spouts water from each dolphin's mouth.
Therefore, the statue is being raffled — 400 tickets at $25 each, to raise money to finish both projects.
"The statue is gorgeous," Moore said, "and would be beautiful on your seawall or as a fountain by your swimming pool."
She noted that a similar statue she located on the Internet carries a price tag of $8,500.
The raffle drawing is set for Thursday. Tickets are available at Blue Pelican Marina, where the statue is on display, and at Contempo Hair Salon and Leslie's Bistro, all in Hernando Beach. The association will transport the statue to the raffle winner's destination.
"But you'll have to get some big guys to help unload it," Simpson said. "It's heavy."
Beth Gray can be reached at [email protected]