Shouldn't community landmarks be big, old, beautiful or, like the Statue of Liberty, all three? On a scale better suited to the subject at hand, you could even say the same about the old Hernando County Courthouse in downtown Brooksville.
The Spring Hill waterfall would seem to be none of the above. Not that it's an eyesore — a sheet of water plunging (until recently) over a curving brick wall and into a shallow concrete pool, surrounded by a lawn neatly maintained by the Spring Hill Garden Club.
But neither is it exactly inspiring, especially when you consider its origins. The Statue of Liberty, of course, was given that name because it honors our nation's bedrock principle. The waterfall was built by Spring Hill's developer, the Deltona Corp., to sell concrete block houses to retirees on 21,000 acres of previously useless scrubland.
So is this structure really a fitting symbol of our community, worth rallying around as Garden Club members did on Saturday? After joining them for a while at Spring Hill Drive and U.S. 19, watching them wave their "Save our Waterfall" signs and collect donations from passing drivers, I say: Absolutely.
Note, first of all, that they aren't asking for any more help from the county.
The Parks and Recreation Department assisted with waterfall maintenance until last year, when it decided — correctly, everyone seems to agree — that it could no longer justify the expense in light of severe budget cutbacks.
So, when the waterfall pump died two weeks ago, the club was left without the money or expertise to fix it. Besides a few bucks in donations, the club is asking for the help of an irrigation or pool contractor who can repair the pump. For regular upkeep, they also hope to recruit some volunteers young and strong enough to lift bags of mulch and topsoil. (To help, call 352-683-9933.)
See, the members of the Garden Club are getting older, and only a small crew is still able to plant flowers and pull weeds. "We're the butt-in-the-air guys," said Trudy Ray, 62, on Saturday.
Here's another thing I liked about the club members. They know how the waterfall stacks up, landmark-wise.
When Ray said, "The waterfall is our Sears Tower," I could tell she was well aware it is not. (At this point, neither is the Sears Tower. North America's tallest skyscraper, in Chicago, is now called the Willis Tower.)
Another sign-holder, Barbara Dubin, acknowledged the waterfall may not look like much, but "it's all Spring Hill has." And as the entrance of the community, she and others said, it should look as good as possible. Considering that a few neighborhoods in Spring Hill look like miniature auto salvage yards, who can argue with that?
Note, also, that Dubin is from Hernando Beach and Ray from the Wellington at Seven Hills, so they view the waterfall as not just a glorified billboard for the original subdivision, but as something that helps tie together the patchwork of developments in the county's southwest quadrant.
That is pretty much what the County Commission found when it accepted the following written proposal from longtime Spring Hill resident Mo Lubee and designated the waterfall as a historical landmark in 1992:
"This symbol represents the essence of our community, reminding all that pass of the harmonious beauty of perpetually moving waters. Lit at night, it has become the harbor lights and promise of an attractive community."
Kind of silly considering the waterfall was then a quarter-century old. Even sillier when you realize it was rebuilt in 1995 to make room for the widening of U.S. 19, meaning we now have a historical monument about the age of a high school sophomore.
On the other hand, I keep a copy of an often-reprinted black-and-white aerial photograph of the brand-new waterfall on my desk. Surrounding it are pallets of sod, boxy mid 1960s pickup trucks, a sales office, a few strips of asphalt and, beyond that, nothing — at least nothing manmade.
Hernando was an entirely different place then, with a population of about 13,000 people compared to more than 165,000 now.
Look at this picture and there's no doubt it's a view of the dawn of a new industry — selling homes to outsiders — that has defined the county's economy and way of life ever since.
No, the waterfall isn't magnificent.
But, despite its youth, is it historic? I'd say it is.
And is it a fitting symbol our community? You bet.