Friday, April 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Hernando's plan for preserve warrants more scrutiny

There's a lot to like about Hernando County's proposed Nature Coast Experience. Expanding recreation along the deep-water lakes left behind by a mining operation has substantial appeal, particularly on property already under public ownership. And developing a new beach is worthwhile goal in a county that has limited alternatives for public swimming. But the $6 million conceptual plan rolled out earlier this month leaves far too many questions unanswered. The county must not be sloppy and do its due diligence before proceeding.

The county's plan calls for a lakeside beach, cabanas, nature tourism center, sports field and parking lots on up to 50 acres inside the Weekiwachee Preserve. But still lacking: a feasibility study, business plan or acknowledgement of the role Weeki Wachee Springs State Park — with its own planned interpretive nature center — would play as either a potential partner or competitor.

The county recently settled on the state-owned preserve as the potential location of its tourism/recreation project after Hernando Beach residents objected to attaching it to the proposed rezoning and expansion of privately owned Blue Pelican Marina. But there are many questions the county still must prepare to answer, not the least of which is how to deal with traffic:

•The county wants park-goers to enter and exit from Osowaw Boulevard. But using Osowaw will require vehicles to bisect a wildlife corridor used by black bears and conflicts with the preserve's 1997 land management plan by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. That plans calls for a public beach and picnic area on the western edge of the property with access from the two-lane Shoal Line Road across the street from the Hernando Beach South neighborhood.

• How will the county absorb ongoing operating and maintenance costs after years of shortchanging its parks and recreation budget?

• How will the county come up with the $3 million match required to draw down the money set aside in the state budget? Proponents of the county's environmental lands program fear that account will be tapped without public input.

• Why would a Nature Coast Experience include a sports field that could require high maintenance grass, sprinklers and fertilizer?

• Will the ongoing development of SunWest, a similar beach park at a nearby site in Pasco, diminish the lure of the Nature Coast Experience and attendance at Hernando's park?

• And, most importantly, can Hernando County develop this project without severely and permanently damaging the environmental attributes that made this property an attractive public acquisition in the first place?

The county is right to try to create a new beach and a museum-like setting to educate the public about Florida's environment. It shouldn't be dismissed out of hand simply because it will bring more people to a preserve. However, the county must provide accurate financial projections and a better accounting of nature in its Nature Coast Experience before trying to proceed.

Comments
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18