Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Plans for environmental, tourism center at Weeki Wachee Springs move forward

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County officials have taken the next steps toward building the proposed Nature Coast Education and Tourism Center at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

County officials met earlier this month with a state park planner to begin discussions of how to mesh the county's mission to lure tourists and connect them with nature-based activities with the operation of the state park.

After the meeting, County Administrator Len Sossamon sent a formal proposal describing aspects of the center's displays and facility features, a tentative budget breakdown for the $6 million project and a time line that shows construction could begin in mid 2016 and be completed by August 2017. The proposal was sent to the state's Office of Economic Opportunity.

Hernando County tourism coordinator Tammy Heon said the meeting with the state went well.

"Basically their concern was to make sure that what we have is in line with what the park's mission was,'' Heon said. "I do not see that as a stumbling block.''

Sossamon's memo describes the need for the facility and its purpose.

"Our visitors and residents alike have shown us they have a great desire to know more about our shorelines, springs and natural resources," he wrote. "Construction of this facility, on the outskirts of a premier preserve and adjacent to a Hernando County landmark, will provide the opportunity to teach people in a fun and engaging way.''

The memo describes a 2,400-square-foot environmental education and tourism display area with separate displays for each of the county's ecosystems — springs, forests, marsh, rivers, reefs and ocean.

Under the category of "reefs," the listing notes: "Needs local fish and plant life as well as a map of our offshore reefs." Under "springs," the notation is: "Needs bubbling water and the details on Weeki Wachee Springs."

An aquarium with local shellfish, stone crabs and scallops, and a display of the underground features in the area, including the Weeki Wachee caves, would also be included.

The displays would highlight areas of critical importance and include videos and slide shows. Those might detail local animals and provide information about local efforts to protect and restore the habitat.

Another display could be a large interactive map showing locations and information about the county's natural assets. That might include a way to scan or download information to a smartphone or tablet.

The proposal also describes other plans for the center, including three 160-square-foot offices for tourism staffers and a 120-seat auditorium that could be used for meetings, festivals, classes and fundraisers.

The center would also serve as the trail head for the state park trail and provide restrooms for trail users. In total, the building would be approximately 6,900 square feet, which would require 50 additional parking spaces.

Parking lot improvements would cost approximately $350,000, according to the proposed budget. Improvements to U.S. 19 and on-site land development would run another $830,000, and the construction budget is an estimated $3.75 million. The budget for equipment and furnishings would be $1.12 million.

The state contributed $3 million for the project, and the county has agreed to match that, although a source for the county money has not yet been determined.

Under the proposed time line, the concept and state approval process would be finished by December, as would a business plan. If the state park site falls through, the county likely would consider sites at the nearby Weekiwachee Preserve, though previous discussions about placing the center in the preserve sparked public opposition, as did the original plan — to include the center as part of an expansion of Blue Pelican Marina in Hernando Beach.

The plans for the preserve included development of a man-made beach on the old lakes left behind from mining decades ago. The beach is not included in the new plan for the state park.

Heon said the next step will be to provide more detail about the center to state park officials. The theme will remain the same, she said, "to provide a solid experience that explains our environment and what makes it so special.''

Plans for environmental, tourism center at Weeki Wachee Springs move forward 07/19/14 [Last modified: Saturday, July 19, 2014 9:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)

    World

    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.