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Kids' nude camp won't be closed

Nudists get to send their kids to camp, too, even if lawmakers have a problem with it.

Gov. Jeb Bush ordered a state investigation into nude summer camps for children, including a nude camp run at the Lake Como nudist resort in Land O'Lakes under the direction of Kissimmee-based American Association for Nude Recreation, after a member of Congress complained.

The inquiry uncovered no evidence of illegal activity, according to the governor's general counsel.

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach, General Counsel Raquel Rodriguez said Bush "shares your concern for the well-being of children" but there is little he can do. Instead, the letter indicates that perhaps Congress, the state Legislature or individual communities might want to get involved.

A statement released Monday by the nude recreation association supported Bush's position and findings, calling the letter "a very thoughtful, pragmatic response."

"We stand ready to provide our support in protecting the well-being of our youth against illegal behavior," the statement said.

Armada pounces as season

opens on tasty prey

CRYSTAL RIVER _ A fiberglass armada tore out of Crystal River into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday morning, getting a jump on opening day of scallop season.

Victor Stanley and Richard Lee hit the water at 7 a.m. An hour later, Stanley, of Lake Lindsay, had his 2-gallon limit of whole scallops, while Lee, of Floral City, scoured for more.

By the time the men finished, the crowds had begun staking their own claims.

When the state banned scalloping in Citrus County in 1994, scallop counts showed no more than 25 per 600 square meters. The state reopened the fishery last year after a study by the Florida Marine Research Institute found 299 scallops in the same area.

The season will run until Sept. 10, with the zone stretching from the Mexico Beach Canal, west of the Bay-Gulf county line in the Panhandle, to the Pasco-Hernando county line.

In this, the second year after the ban was lifted, Citrus County is trying to calculate the economic impact of scalloping season. Past estimates have pegged the scallop season's value at $3-million to $5-million.

Mermaid fans float the idea

of owning Weeki Wachee park

BROOKSVILLE _ Though it may seem quaint and outdated, the Weeki Wachee Springs attraction has its supporters, who say the park is still a big draw 46 years after opening.

A proposal making the rounds calls for the company that currently owns the park, Weeki Wachee Springs LLC, to turn it over to the city of Weeki Wachee.

It is the latest of several ideas about how to deal with a facility that presents the same basic puzzle as other historic attractions in the state.

Weeki Wachee, less than two hours from some of the world's most popular modern amusements parks, is not able to compete.

Yet it represents an entertainment resource _ and a cultural one, some say _ worth preserving.

"If someone could get it and care for it and think of it as a it's-the-only-one-like-it-in-the-world type of place, I know it could work," said Barbary Wynns, a mermaid in the late 1960s and early 1970s. "I'm one of the ones who is desperate that (the attraction) be saved."

Weeki Wachee has been compared with other old-time Florida attractions that inspired preservation efforts after they had failed: Cypress Gardens in Lake County, which the state has considered buying, and Sunken Gardens, in St. Petersburg, which the city now runs.

Officer's killing spurs a neighborhood "call to action'

DADE CITY _ Naming it a "call to action," a social worker has invited more than six dozen community members and officials to begin a development and revitalization project for the Lacoochee and Trilby areas.

In the wake of the killing of sheriff's Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison on June 1 in Lacoochee, Isa Blanford is stepping forward to make some changes.

Blanford, a community planner for the Pasco County Housing Authority at Cypress Villas in Lacoochee, said she's taking action as a private citizen in mailing the invitations.

The first meeting will be at 6 p.m. July 21 at Hugh Embry Library in Dade City.

"Something has to change," said Blanford, who mailed dozens of invitations to gather and talk.

Reading camp has

low rate of success

ST. PETERSBURG _ When the Pinellas County summer reading camp wrapped up last week, 521 third-graders took a test they hoped would get them into fourth grade.

About 1 out of 10 passed. The rest likely will repeat third grade.

The monthlong camp of intensive reading instruction enabled 55 youngsters to avoid spending another year in third grade. Although parents might find the 10.6 percent passing rate a disappointment, school officials had warned against unrealistic expectations.

Most of the children in the reading camps around the state are third-graders who failed the reading section of the FCAT. They also came up short on another reading test given at the same time. Under state law, those children should repeat third grade unless they demonstrated reading ability in some other way.

Gov. Jeb Bush and Education Commissioner Jim Horne directed school districts to quickly organize the camps to work with the children who needed reading help.

In short . . .

+ BROOKSVILLE _ Residents in the neighborhood west of the Brooksville Wal-Mart suspected the new store was causing their newfound flooding problems. The Southwest Florida Water Management District has now stepped up, agreeing with the neighbors and ordering Wal-Mart to fix the problem.

+ TAMPA _ A producer with Hillsborough public access television is asking a federal judge to reject a settlement agreement between the county and the station, saying its implementation is resulting in censorship. Eddye Bexley, one of the parties in the original lawsuit, says station operators have initiated a series of crackdown measures targeting protected content of the citizen-produced shows. "The nervousness, the harassment has gotten (to be) too much," Bexley said. "People are crying."

+ DADE CITY _ The new headquarters for Pasco County sheriff's operations on the east side will be named for slain Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison, officials announced Tuesday. Harrison was shot and killed in Lacoochee while sitting in his patrol car June 1, less than two weeks away from retiring after a 30-year career with the Sheriff's Office. Arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death is Alfredie Steele Jr., 19, of Lacoochee.

Coming up this week

+ Even though the animosity between the governor and Senate Republicans seems to be increasing, legislators will head back to Tallahassee Wednesday for a special session on medical malpractice. The biggest disagreement is over Gov. Jeb Bush's demand for a $250,000 cap on damages for pain and suffering. Senators have been grumbling that they have compromised on several fronts, but the governor hasn't budged. Bush, meanwhile, has threatened to call repeated sessions throughout the summer if a solution isn't found.

+ The St. Petersburg City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday to provide interest-free home loans for police officers. The idea is aimed at keeping and attracting officers to a police force that has been losing officers to better-paying agencies.

_ Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

HUNKA HUNKA PIZZA PIE: Deliveryman Mike Zullo of Elvis Pizza presents a pie to a Port Richey customer. "I felt dressing up the drivers would distinguish us," said Dino Fotopoulos, 41, who owns the shop with his wife Rita, 34. He was right. Requests are coming in from Seven Springs and Hudson, from Elvis lovers working everywhere from Circuit City to the county government center. "People take pictures when he comes to the door," Fotopoulos said.

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