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With purchase of Spring Hill's historic Lake House, county sees great possibilities

SPRING HILL — Decades ago, Nick Morana was head of the Spring Hill Civic Association when the Deltona Corp. handed over the community center and surrounding property to the association and the community.

So it is not surprising that the longtime Spring Hill resident has a bit of melancholy over the coming changing of the guard.

But he says he gets over it quickly because of his excitement about the possibilities for the community center and park improvements as the Hernando County Commission prepares next week to buy what is now known as the Lake House.

The building was constructed in 1967 and most recently has been operated by the Spring Hill Community Association. The 16-acre site at the south end of Kenlake Avenue has been the home for hundreds of events, ranging from community concerts in the band shell behind the structure to community group meetings to private weddings and birthday parties to the popular Angels on High holiday event.

Morana had high praise for the current officers and board running the organization, despite the fact that they have been forced by lean financial times and a lack of new volunteers to offer the facility for sale.

"They are all good people who have really worked hard on keeping it up,'' he said. "They've done a great job.''

Current board president Ed Lawrence and board member Beverly Reso admit that selling the property is bittersweet, but believe offering the site to the county will be best for the community.

"This, we feel, is such a beautiful spot,'' Reso said. "We knew we were close to closing the door, and we didn't want to lose this.''

• • •

One day last week, county Commissioner Diane Rowden stood on the Hunter's Lake boat ramp and gazed out at the water, which had been missing during the recent drought years.

The sun was shining, a cool breeze was weaving through the trees and water lilies and other aquatic plants bloomed as an inviting entrance to the shimmering lake. But there was no one there to plunk a boat into the water.

The county closed the ramp about three years ago, and access to the site, which is adjacent to the Lake House, is blocked.

"The ramp is in really good shape,'' Rowden said. "It's just a matter of cleaning this waterway out really good.''

Once the Lake House is purchased, getting that waterway cleaned up and the ramp reopened will be high on the county's priority list, according to Russ Wetherington, the county's assistant administrator for general services.

The boat ramp and other surrounding property the county already owns is a big reason the purchase of the Lake House was of such interest to the county. In addition to the ramp, the adjacent ball field is owned by the county and leased as a practice field to the Dixie League.

Also on site is the Little Red Schoolhouse, a former library that currently serves as a used bookstore operated by Friends of the Library, a support group for the county's library system.

The Lake House property has a market value of $465,360. Wetherington said the county has negotiated a price of $250,000, which will require approval by the County Commission on Tuesday.

Harry Johnson, the county's recreation coordinator, said the site holds a lot of history. Portable classrooms on the property served as the original Spring Hill campus for Pasco-Hernando Community College.

There were also tennis courts at one time.

Spring Hill Dixie League Baseball got its start on the site, Johnson recalled.

The county intends to make good use of the Lake House, Johnson said.

He said there might be planned events once a month.

"It opens the door to a lot of events,'' he said.

The building, Johnson said, "is in pretty good shape and a little bit larger than a lot of our facilities. Maybe we can do some programs there.

"I'm kind of excited about it,'' he said, "The county will do good by this piece of property.''

• • •

Earlier this year, Rowden and Reso were attending the same social event when the issue of the struggling Lake House came up. Rowden was instantly taken by the possibilities that opened up if the county made the purchase.

"We've been wanting to revitalize Spring Hill, and the fact is, there is so much history with the Lake House, which was originally the Spring Hill Civic Association,'' Rowden said.

Before that, the site was a sales office for Deltona, which developed Spring Hill in the late 1960s.

Once the current board took over the operation, members worked to make the venue a popular one for local residents. Lawrence said he was always surprised when people told him they never knew the Lake House existed.

"Brooksville was having all of the activities in their downtown,'' Reso recalled. "That's why we got the band shell, and we've really had some successful shows.''

Reso and Lawrence reminisced about a couple of artists who played at the facility. They recalled that the Drifters put on a great show in the band shell while a rainstorm forced the Coasters inside, in very cramped conditions.

Still, Lawrence said, the music was wonderful, and visitors enjoyed the show.

"We've worked with a lot of great people over the years,'' including other volunteers, vendors, caterers and others, Reso said.

"There are so many people who want a community center'' and a place to gather, Rowden said.

The county, she said, intends to build on what the volunteers have done over the years.

For Lawrence, that makes the county's purchase a good thing because "it's not closing.''

Reso hopes for a little more.

"We want to see it flourish,'' she said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

With purchase of Spring Hill's historic Lake House, county sees great possibilities 05/07/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 8, 2014 10:50am]

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