Weekie Wachee, 1991 - two finny femme fatales pose with statue.

Weeki Wachee struggles for breath; mermaids rally behind

Weeki Wachee, Florida's beleagured City of Mermaids has temporarily held off another threat to its existence, but that may end in a matter of days. America's last live mermaid attraction -- a 27-acre park built around a natural spring -- delivered a business plan this week to the land owners, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (aka Swiftmud), laying out how to repair and restore Weeki Wachee to profitability. But Swiftmud has prepared their own analysis of the plan, a much graver and sobering assessment, and will begin to final deliberation on Sept. 22 on whether to end Weeki Wachee's lease.

Weeki Wachee fell upon hard times in recent years as a result of declining attendance, maintenance costs of the aging facilities, and perhaps even some mismanagement. As current owners of the 440 acres around the spring, the Swiftmud is considering closing the attraction and replacing it with a state park. In August, private investors in the park donated it to the city of Weeki Wachee -- population 9 -- after failing to find interested buyers.

Weeki Wachee mayor and park manager Robyn Anderson, a 29-year old former mermaid, is leading an effort to raise the capitol to restore the park to its former glory. WW's "Save Our Tails" campaign solicits donations from the public for improvements and encourages vigorous letter writing to Florida authorities and politicians to preserve Weeki Wachee.

A similar grass roots campaign saved aged tourist landmark Cypress Gardens after it closed earlier this year. Costumed Southern Belles descended on the state capitol and arm wrestled Jeb Bush until he agreed to rescue that park using state land preservation funds...

Weeki Wachee needs lots of help, though. The park must eliminate a termite infestation problem, and hook into the city's sewer system. They must also pull park attendance proceeds into the black -- last year the park lost over $173,000, though current attraction management believes some of this was caused by large withdrawals of cash from the park's books by one of its investors for unknown uses.

Work has already begun, repairing buildings with materials and labor donated by locals and other volunteers. On Sept, 22, a public hearing will be held by the state's water agency to determine the fate of Weeki Wachee.... (UPDATE - 9/23: The Swiftmud governing board has voted to allow Weeki Wachee to stay open, make needed repairs, and try to turn a profit. They'll also require frequent reports on the attraction's progress ...UPDATE 9/28: The park held a fundraising weekend, dubbed "Alive and Flippin,'" to raise some of the money needed for renovations. .... UPDATE 10/18: Another fundraising weekend, with local business contibuting, trying to meet Swiftmud's demands for repairs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders were scheduled to appear in a demonstration of solidarity with their scaley sisters.)


Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee, FL
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. On the west side of US Hwy 19/Commercial Way just south of Cortez Blvd.
Daily shows at 10, 12, 1:30, and 3. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
$13 park entrance fee. The mermaid show is free.
RA Rates:
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