Brooksville, FL (July 12, 2018) At the July 10 meeting, the Board of County Commissioners approved $125,000 from the Florida’s Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau budget, made available on behalf of the Tourism Development Council, to fund the $250,000 Weeki Wachee Natural System Carrying Capacity Study. The cost of the study will be shared equally with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District). Field research conducted by an independent third-party consultant began in June.
Extraordinarily beautiful, the Weeki Wachee River’s popularity with recreational paddlers has bourgeoned in recent years. Homeowners along the river and canals and others with motorized and paddle craft converge to an extent that threatens the ecology of this 7.4-mile long river.
The natural systems capacity study aims to determine the level of public access and recreational enjoyment, as well as, documenting areas of impact to the Weeki Wachee river bottom, shoreline, wildlife and ecological systems. Before conducting field surveys, scientists reviewed waterway resource and capacity studies from around the state, country and world. These comparisons and resource plan outcomes give scientific and historical context to the Weeki Wachee River challenges.
“The Weeki Wachee River is one of our most precious natural assets,” Commissioner Wayne Dukes stated. “With the number of visitors flocking to the river and adding to its overuse, we really need this study and appreciate the Tourist Development Council for funding this important research to help ensure the health of the river for generations to come.”
Parade of kayakers and manatee
Led by the District, this project is a collaboration among Hernando County, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and will conclude on or before December 31, 2019. Part of the District’s overall Weeki Wachee Surface Water Improvement and Management Plan, this capacity study supplements an initiative by Senator Wilton Simpson to fund design and permitting of the Weeki Wachee River Channel Restoration Project that will conclude in 2022.
Consultant setting up sampling gear for study
“We appreciate Senator Simpson’s leadership on this issue, as well as the partnership we have with the District and Florida DEP. While Tourism is but a small part of the overuse issue,” noted Tammy Heon, manager of tourism development, “we must be part of the solution.”
Florida’s Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau’s mission is to identify, create, support and enhance activities, consistent with community assets that increase visitation and provide local economic impact. Funds for the Visitors Bureau are derived from tourist development tax, also known as “bed tax” revenue, a five percent surcharge on all transient accommodations (hotels, motels, vacation home rentals, bed & breakfast inns, campgrounds and other lodging leased for six months or less) within Hernando County. For more information or to partner with the Visitors Bureau, call (352) 754-4405 or visit www.floridasadventurecoast.com.