By Gladys Moore
That will be our community’s new “brand” however it isn’t new to those of us who live here in Hernando Beach. We have long enjoyed the nature that surrounds us here on “The Beach”.
Hernando Beach isn’t easy to find. It is nestled on Hernando’s coast with the Weeki Wachee Nature Preserve to its eastern boarder and the Gulf of Mexico on the west. As you drive along US Highway 19 in Hernando County you would never suspect that this little waterfront gem existed on the Gulf. The only roads into and out of Hernando County’s coast are Highway 550 on its northern end and Osowaw Boulevard at its southern end.
Hernando Beach is not a new community, it was first started as waterfront fishing and boating development on the coast of Hernando County in the late 1950’s by the late Charlie Sasser. He envisioned a community of waterfront homes on canals to the Gulf of Mexico with small shops and restaurants along shoal Line Boulevard. Mr. Sasser started selling lots in the northern section of Hernando Beach in the early 60’s by holding fish fries and promoting it to his friends and business associates in the Tampa Bay area. Hernando Beach grew slowly over the years since then.
Bordering Hernando Beach on the east side of Shoal Line Boulevard is the Weeki Wachee Preserve which was originally a lime rock mine; in fact all of Hernando Beach was originally a lime rock mine. Lime rock that formed the road beds for much of the Tampa Bay area according to Mr. Sasser. By the early 1990’s the lime rock mine was closed and a developer wanted to build homes and a shopping center on the land. Around 1994 I remember attending hearings and meetings regarding the lime rock mine land being cleared and developed. The local residents in Hernando Beach, Weeki Wachee and Aripeka didn’t want it and we fought long and hard to stop it. We loved the birds and wildlife that lived in the area and didn’t want to see them displaced and homeless.
Then the Southwest Water Management District, SWFTMD, stepped in and bought the land to as part of its water management district for the Weeki Wachee River. It was named the Weeki Wachee Nature Preserve and our deer, bears, turkeys, Eagles, Osprey, bobcats, raccoons and all form of wildlife had a home forever. The preserve is part of a nature corridor for wildlife that runs from Pasco County to the south of the preserve and north into Citrus County. It adjoins the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Preserve on its northern boarder at Highway 550.
Back then there was a wooden sign in the middle of the triangle intersection at Shoal Line and Osowaw Boulevards that said Welcome To Hernando Beach. Around 2000 it was hit and demolished by a car that was headed west down Osowaw and took the turn onto Shoal Line too fast. The remodeling and rebuilding of our sign at US Highway 19 had just been completed. Now the residents and the then existing Hernando Beach Business Association had a new project to take on, rebuild our sign at the triangle intersection.
We had plans drawn up for a new sign consisting of a concrete pillar with the three coastal Communities names on it and a beautiful 5 dolphin statue on its top. We also wanted a pile of large lime rock boulders near the granite Tarpon sign with a bear standing on the top to honor our bears in the preserve. We held fund raisers and the dolphin and bear statues were purchased for around $7500 in 2004. This left us about $8500 in the bank to build the sign.
However, the triangle plans were stalled and held in abeyance for all these years due requirements by the county for revising the plans, and getting surveys and permits. The builder who was originally backing us in Hernando Beach moved north to Citrus County, other involved residents moved away and the Business Association dissolved. For 10 years the project stalled with our dolphins and bear statues sitting homeless in a garage waiting for someone to step forward and resurrect the project.
Now here we are in 2014 with a whole new concept that is close to being a finished Triangle Park at Osowaw and Shoal Line Boulevards. A beautiful small area with a home for our bear and new signage coming that will welcome people to Hernando Beach The Nature Coast.
Gordon and Ron Wolf bought and renovated what is now Blue Pelican Marina, and then they looked around Hernando Beach and said what’s with the triangle intersection where you turn to come into Hernando Beach? It looks neglected and undeveloped, it could be beautiful. In 2013 they started asking questions about it of residents here. Ron Wolf had a vision for the triangle, one that made it into a beautiful miniature park. He drew up plans for his vision and presented them to HBPOA members at a meeting. We told him about the original old plans for the triangle and that we had a brass dolphin statue and a bear statue for it that were in storage gathering dust. They could be incorporated into his new exciting plan for the triangle plus we had a survey and some funds to develop it that had been sitting in the bank for 10 years. That was all Ron needed to hear, he took charge of the project incorporating the bear into his plans for the little triangle area and started talking to people.
With a new Administrator on board in Hernando County, one who liked Hernando Beach and wanted to brand Hernando County as Florida’s Nature Coast, things started happening. The new plans for the triangle were bold and beautiful and the county loved them plus we could use the bear statue, however not the dolphins statue. It was too big and installing it would be a problem. Ron talked to contractors and developers and got labor and some materials either donated or at cost, all we had to cover was some of the materials. With the County on board to give us development permits, the Tourism Department donating funds for the Nature Coast sign, and Ron’s contacts things started to happen and our little Triangle Park began to blossom.
After much dirt being moved around, palm trees planted, our bear statue installed, sign supports installed, and concrete paths poured, we are close to seeing it finished. We are just waiting on final signage and landscaping. Our HBPOA president Jude Simpson has taken on the landscaping challenge with a vision for our Triangle Park as a Florida Native plant garden. Jude belongs to the Florida Native plant Society and is an expert on them. She and her Hernando Beach Garden committee members are researching native flowering plants to use that will attract butterflies and birds and yet won’t require watering and lots of care. We will have electric at the Triangle Park but no irrigation system or water. The landscaping has to hardy and non-invasive. There is excitement in the air and Hernando Beach residents can’t wait to see our little mini park completed.