Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando staff moving ahead on education center plans

BROOKSVILLE — When Hernando County got word early this week that Gov. Rick Scott had approved $3 million for the construction of the Nature Coast education and tourism center, the staff was ready to jump into the project.

The center, which is planned for a location inside the Weekiwachee Preserve, will still require numerous steps before final approval. But county officials didn't want to waste any time, said county Commissioner Nick Nicholson.

The county will prepare a request for qualifications for an engineer in the next 60 days and county staff will work on plans to upgrade the entrance road and bring utilities to the site. The in-house work will speed up the process, Nicholson said, and the hope is to have the facility mostly done within a year.

The center is planned for a site inside the Weekiwachee Preserve that had previously been mined. At the same site, the county is also planning a 20-acre beach on lakes left behind by the mining operation, in addition to developing other recreational activities such as canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

"This is a golden opportunity for us to showcase a portion of the county that is rarely seen,'' said County Administrator Len Sossamon. "We're excited."

At a commission meeting late last month when the board approved the Weekiwachee Preserve location, commissioners also asked for a conceptual idea of how the site might be developed. The staff is working on that, Sossamon said.

That process will also get some help from local conservation groups and from the public.

Two open meetings are planned next week on Wednesday and Thursday, one in Hernando Beach and one in Brooksville, to discuss ideas on how to develop the center.

Ultimately the project will face review by the Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board. The county staff will also have to find $3 million in matching dollars to make the center work. About a third of that might come from the settlement the county received on the Hernando Beach Channel dredging project lawsuit, Nicholson said.

Commissioner Diane Rowden said she was grateful to the governor and legislators for awarding the state funds for the project and "for giving Hernando County the opportunity to expand tourism and ecotourism as in our strategic plan.''

The community also wrote letters supporting the funding for the preserve site.

"The environmental education center was a great concept in search of a great site,'' said Forrest Bennett, who organized the letter-writing campaign. "The center at this location will be a fabulous asset for all residents for decades to come.''

>>if you go

Public meetings

• 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Coast Guard Auxiliary, 4340 Calienta St., Hernando Beach

• 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Hernando County Transportation Services, 1525 E Jefferson St., Brooksville

Hernando staff moving ahead on education center plans 06/05/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 5, 2014 10:21am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Why are so few Tampa Bay houses for sale? They're being rented

    Real Estate

    Oreste Mesa Jr. owns a modest 40-year-old house in West Tampa just off MacDill Avenue. It's an area where many homeowners are hearing the siren song of builders and cashing out while the market is strong.

    Attorney David Eaton poses in front of his rental home at 899 72nd Ave. North. in St. Petersburg. He's among a growing number of property owners who see more value in renting out unused homes than selling them. 
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. In a word, Hernando school leaders say, first day was 'smooth'

    K12

    Over and over on Monday, school district leaders used the same word to describe the unfolding of the first day of school in Hernando County.

    "Smooth."

    Third-graders Teagan Ferguson, left, and Brianna DeLaine deliver attendance figures to the office at J.D. Floyd Elementary School on Monday. Superintendent Lori Romano and other district administrators toured a handful of schools and classrooms throughout the day,
  3. Looking Back: Diana, America's Princess

    Celebrities

    The Washington Post, in her obituary, called her "the most photographed woman in the world." She was loved in England for saying, after her divorce from Prince Charles, "I'd like to be a queen of people's hearts." Americans loved her for her work with charitable causes supporting victims of AIDS and landmines. Aug. 31 …

    Prince Charles and Princess Diana on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day.

(AP Photo)
  4. Rays morning after: 5 mistakes that led to loss to Blue Jays

    Blogs

    We've already documented elsewhere what the Rays didn't do, how they failed to take advantage of a prime opportunity to win Wednesday's game, getting just one run after loading the bases in the seventh with one out and three of …

    Jake Faria make too many mistakes, the failure to execute costing him repeatedly.
  5. Unborn baby dies, two critically injured in Largo crash

    Accidents

    LARGO — Two people were critically injured and an unborn baby was killed in a crash that shut down an intersection on Ulmerton Road late Wednesday night, the Florida Highway Patrol said.