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Movie's backers should address concerns

Filming scenes for a Hollywood Hogan movie on New Port Richey's new 80-acre nature preserve could pay dividends to the city without endangering wildlife and natural habitat on the property.

Before the cameras show up, however, the property owner and the film company should address public concerns by explaining exactly what they plan to do and how they intend to protect the land. To do less invites a public backlash that might discourage other movie companies from coming here.

Big Island Productions, the company that plans to produce a movie called McCinsey's Island, starring Hollywood Hogan (formerly Hulk Hogan), is interested in using the property to film boat chases on the Pithlachascotee River as well as foot chases through the woods.

None of the scenes contemplated by Big Island necessarily constitute a threat to wildlife or natural habitat, but city residents fear they could. Whether these fears are valid or not, they merit serious attention.

For the moment, the land remains in private hands and the owner has a right to deal with Big Island Productions without involving the city and the Florida Communities Trust, which have agreed to pay $775,000 for the property.

Check Grey, the real estate agent who represents the property owner, has plenty of reason to protect the land, not just for his client's sake, but for the sake of his reputation as well as his handsome commission.

If, for some reason, he blows it, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has oversight authority to control the filmmaker's activities on the property.

This should be enough to guarantee that natural qualities of the land are protected. Yet some New Port Richey residents remain worried that something could go awry, regardless of state oversight and good intentions.

To ease their fears and head off protest demonstrations designed to thwart the film project, Grey and Big Island Productions should appear before the City Council to answer questions about what they intend to do and why it poses no hazard to the natural character of this special property.

City officials encouraged Big Island Productions to come to New Port Richey to generate immediate income for local merchants, and, more importantly, to create a positive impression of the community that will encourage other filmmakers to come.

This is a commendable objective, which could be facilitated at this point by common-sense public relations.