Tuesday, June 19, 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: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18