SPRING HILL — Since the 1960s, when this community began sprouting homes like petunia blooms, a small park highlighted by a sheeting waterfall cascading into a pool has greeted people at Spring Hill Drive and U.S. 19.
Along with a sign identifying the subdivision, the entrance features flags honoring the United States, POWs and Spring Hill on land donated by the developer, the Deltona Corp.
Today, the future of the welcoming waterfall is in doubt.
Citing a tight budget, Hernando County on Oct. 1 stopped maintaining the waterfall and its well source, with the responsibility falling back on the members of the Spring Hill Garden Club.
The club has cared for the small park since its inception, planting flowers — many of them grown and donated by members — mowing the grass and pruning shrubbery.
The club also tended the waterfall. But as its members grew older and less able to do physical labor, about six or seven years ago the county's Parks and Recreation Department stepped in to help, said department director Pat Fagan.
"Now, the members are even older," pointed out Deb Swanson, the club's waterfall spokeswoman.
Of the 70 club members, only about 20 are up to the task, she said. The volunteer gardeners also care for the Nature Coast Botanical Garden on Parker Avenue and hold plant sales at the club nursery, with proceeds going to projects such as maintaining the waterfall park.
Last year, the club spent about $500 on the small park, said president Doug Brainard, and it has $1,000 in this year's budget. Fagan said his department spent $12,250 in 2010 on the waterfall and well, most of it in labor costs.
Now that the county has ended the arrangement, Brainard lamented, "It's a huge project that has been laid in our lap."
The waterfall was turned off a couple of weeks ago when the well's pump malfunctioned. The club is awaiting inspection by a pool contractor to determine if the pump can be repaired. "If we have to buy a pump, the cost will be big," Brainard said.
In anticipation, the club is establishing a Save Our Waterfall bank account dedicated to that single cause.
On Saturday, club members will gather at the park to wave signs at passing motorists to draw attention to their plight of the dry waterfall.
Brainard and Swanson are hoping other civic associations will join the club in sponsoring the site. Individual and business financial contributions are also welcome.
During a discussion about the county's parks maintenance budget this week, County Commissioner Dave Russell suggested that the staff look into other funding mechanisms to maintain the Spring Hill waterfall.
Some assistance has already been given. Elks Lodge 2582 of Brooksville recently donated an American flag to replace the weathered one. Last year, JONI Industries of Brooksville contributed a fresh Spring Hill flag.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.