Make us your home page

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

  1. Forecast: Soggy, yet hot, workweek ahead across Tampa Bay


    A soggy workweek is ahead across Tampa Bay as decent chances for scattered storms remain consistent over the next several days.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  2. Travel ban, Kennedy retirement speculation the focus as Supreme Court prepares for break


    WASHINGTON — Before taking their long summer break, the Supreme Court justices are poised to act on the Trump administration's travel ban and a separation of church and state dispute involving a Missouri church playground.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy, shown in 2007, has given no public sign that he would step down this year and give President Donald Trump his second high court pick in the first months of his administration. Kennedy's departure would allow conservatives to take firm control of the court. [Associated Press]
  3. Florida education news: Guns, charter schools, drug education and more


    HOSTILE WORK PLACE: A legal review determines that while a University of South Florida technology center former director might have been boorish and hostile, …

  4. Fire crews battle blaze at apartment complex near Seminole Heights


    Fire crews are battling a blaze that broke out early Monday morning at an apartment complex near Seminole Heights, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.

  5. PolitiFact Florida: Claim that 5.7 million noncitizens voted is wrong

    State Roundup

    President Donald Trump's unfounded allegations that millions voted illegally in 2016 is back in the news, with his supporters pointing to a new analysis that claims millions of undocumented immigrants voted in 2008.

    Instances of noncitizens voting have been reported, but evidence points to a small number among millions of votes cast.