WELCOME TO OUR NEW WEBSITE!!
Take a look, browse! Please let us know if there are any missing links, pictures, etc, by emailing to: email@example.com
Enjoy the slideshow of the Park's new Mermaid Theater Roof, soon to be returned back to the original shell design of the 1950's!
~ SEE A MESSAGE FROM THE FRIEND'S PRESIDENT BELOW ~
GREETINGS! My name is Denise Tenuto and I am one of the original founding board members of the Friends of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. I was recruited by John Athanason, Public Relations Manager at the park, to the original Steering Committee as I was planning my retirement after 32 years from the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and coordinating with the park as the Project Manager for the Weeki Wachee Springs Restoration Project.
While employed at the District, I served on the Weeki Wachee Task Force and the Citrus Hernando Restoration Council Technical Advisory Committee. I also assisted in obtaining the designation of an Outstanding Florida Water Body for the Weeki Wachee River by providing necessary data and mapping. I have been actively involved in the protection of the Weeki Wachee Springs and associated riverine corridor throughout my career and was very pleased when the surrounding lands were afforded additional protection through public acquisition by the SWFWMD and subsequent management and oversight of the attraction site by the Florida Park Service.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, as a former historic roadside attraction, can’t compete with Disney World in Orlando, but as the original “home of the live mermaids” it is, naturally-speaking, Hernando County’s most visited venue attracting 237,742 visitors last year. The Friends of the Park would like to see its beautiful first magnitude spring and surrounding parklands protected, preserved and enhanced for the use and enjoyment of future generations. Toward that end, the Friends of the Park Board of Directors continue to work with the Florida Park Service planning and management staff to encourage completion and adoption of the final draft of the Master Plan for Weeki Wachee Springs State Park as promised by year-end. The plan is a vision for the park which includes improved walkways, landscaping, an interpretive center/museum , an expanded splash pool for children, and other facilities. The total estimated cost for all improvements is $8,660,000. Of that amount, the new splash pool and interpretive center/museum are estimated to cost $500,000 and $1,500,000, respectively. Please be aware that the entrance fees we all pay at most state parks, including Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, don’t stay in the park. The fees go back to Tallahassee and together with other revenues are redistributed by the Florida Legislature and Governor to cover the state’s needs and priorities, including state parks. The Friends, therefore, are expected to play a major role in raising the funds for these improvements, as well as supplementing the park’s budget for equipment and other needs throughout the year.
In anticipation of the completed master plan and associated cost estimates, fundraising efforts have been expanded this year to include a paver brick sale program, fundraisers at Locomo Skating Rink and R Beach Restaurant, a Halloween event called Mischief Night, the sale of mermaid calendars, Little Mermaid CDs, T-shirts, a book on the history of Weeki Wachee, and mermaid tails.
Mermaid High Tide Tea Party
The Friends installed an ATM machine in the park’s gift shop for the convenience of park visitors which also generates revenue. We purchased speakers, lighting and synchronizers for the animal show and a Mac Pro computer which is used by the park staff to improve their productions and shows. Park staff recommended adjustments to our membership program a few times this year to one they feel does not compete with sales of their annual park passes and will encourage volunteers to earn free annual Florida State Park passes by volunteering 100 hours per year at the park. All prospective volunteers must register with the park prior to volunteering for Friends and park events and activities.
To further encourage park planning staff to complete a master plan for the park and demonstrate the Friends’ commitment to assisting with future funding of major park improvements, the Friends gave Weeki Wachee Springs a facelift early in 2013 by implementing a Florida-friendly landscape plan prepared by the Florida Park Service. The landscaping provides enhanced filtration of stormwater runoff prior to it entering the spring less than 200’ away. The project also includes a paver brick walkway around the iconic mermaid fountain, improving accessibility to one of the most photographed park sites in Florida and educational signage listing the benefits of Florida-friendly landscaping in protecting and conserving our springs and water resources. Also included is signage recognizing the following contributors: Aventura Nursery & Landscape, Inc., Florida Society Children of the American Revolution, Flagstone Pavers, Inc., Sunshine State Sprinkler Company, and grants from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Friends of Florida State Park through the Smith Foundation. Aventura Nursery also donated 27 live oak and southern magnolia trees to the Friends for inside the park. We are very appreciative of these organizations’ support and proud of our community partnerships on this highly visible and worthwhile project.
Friends participated in a public hearing held by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to set acceptable target nitrate levels (Total Maximum Daily Load) for our springshed and submitted written recommendations to further reduce their target in order to achieve the desired goal of reduction of Lyngbya algae in our springshed. The Friends also encouraged the adoption of a Fertilizer Ordinance to help achieve these goals.
I want to thank my fellow board members, the park staff and our volunteers for their contributions to our accomplishments this year. Including Friends’ members, our park only has 125 registered volunteers and, therefore, needs the help of many more people. We especially need more people to sell refreshments or tickets at our annual multi-night fundraising events for Halloween and Christmas and for organizing more membership and appreciation events throughout the year. Additionally, the Friends are always looking for willing members to fill vacancies on the Board of Directors with a variety of skills required to effectively run this not-for-profit organization such as, but not limited to, leadership, fundraising, bookkeeping / accounting, communications and outreach-- including newsletter and brochure design, education, landscape and architectural design, event planning, sales and marketing. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer or request an application to a be a board member.
As mentioned above, volunteers are essential and appreciated for all of the Friends’ activities, not only for fundraising, but also for resource management, such as the eager volunteers who participated in our second annual Earth Day and National Public Lands Day in an assortment of activities including litter removal, landscaping, trail maintenance and exotic plant control. The Friends volunteers continued to conduct invasive weed removal workdays this year in line with protection of the natural habitat of the Weeki Wachee riverine corridor and in conjunction with construction of the new boardwalk along the tranquility trail and the relocation of the animal show in the park. We are very grateful to volunteers from Walmart Distribution Center and Walmart on U.S. 41 in Brooksville for conducting river cleanups throughout the year which resulted in grant awards to the Friends from the Walmart Foundation. Additionally, we are grateful to the park’s concessionaire, Cape Leisure Corporation, who made the cleanups possible by donating or reducing the rental costs for use of their kayaks and canoes.
Earlier this year, the Friends held its first membership event with guest speaker, Brett Hemphill presenting his fascinating and courageous cave diving exploration of the Weeki Wachee Springs. Over 400’ and they still haven’t hit bottom! More membership events are desirable and would be possible throughout the year with additional assistance from the membership.
Regretfully, our volunteer who previously put together our newsletter retired after completing the last one in January, so this message may also serve as the newsletter this year until we can recruit a replacement. The Friends are going “green” by eliminating most printed mailings and replacing same with electronic communications. Let us know of any change in your email address so we can keep you apprised of our activities, events and need for volunteers. We appreciate your support and together we will continue to help make a difference at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
In closing, even though our economy appears to be on the road to recovery, it is clear that in order for major fundraising to be successful and accomplished in a timely fashion at Hernando County’s most visited venue, it will be imperative for the entire community, including the County’s Tourist Development Council, Board of County Commissioners, Legislative Delegation, Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations, as well as large and small business interests in the community, to be actively involved in fundraising.