Weeki Wachee reprieve now in doubt
Despite an agreement reached back in February, it now looks uncertain if the Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid attraction in Florida will actually receive State Park status, and thus secure its future.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) submitted its budget request to fund Weeki Wachee Springs prior to this year’s session. The Senate has voted to fund Weeki Wachee. However, the House has not. The issue will be addressed by the Budget Conference Committee and funding may or may not be provided by the Legislature as they are entering its final days of regular session.
The DEP had been invited to take part in the mediation process as a possible resolution the four-year litigation between the attraction and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. After several meetings between the DEP and attraction officials, an agreement was signed between the two parties that allows the City of Weeki Wachee to donate all assets to the State on November 8, 2008, thus making Weeki Wachee Springs an official State Park. If funding is not provided by the Legislature, it will leave unclear status of the donation of the attraction to the State Park system.
As reported in the November 2007 issue of Park World, Weeki Wachee Springs was on the verge of extinction four years ago due to severe neglect from previous management and a huge repair bill.
An aggressive “Save Our Tails” PR campaign was immediately launched about the plight of the mermaids and renovation began. Assistance in the form of in-kind donations from citizens, companies and others allowed the neglect to be cured a fraction of the estimated $1 million cost. Yet State Park status is still considered crucial to its survival.