Weeki Wachee mermaids
Postcard of Weeki Wachee mermaids, 1981.
There's been a lot of controversy surrounding Weeki Wachee the past several years. Here's some of it, from an AP story:
WEEKI WACHEE, Fla. — Nostalgia and a timely flood of donations saved the tails of the Weeki Wachee Springs mermaids a few years ago when the vintage Florida roadside attraction nearly succumbed to age and indifference.
The mermaids are still swimming for appreciative audiences in this tiny town an hour north of Tampa, but the waters are far from calm.
The newly spruced up theme park remains embroiled in a distasteful dispute over its lease with a state agency that Weeki Wachee Springs' owners say could spell the end for one of the remaining tourist gems of old Florida, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
But the agency, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which owns the spring and surrounding land and leases it to the attraction, says Weeki Wachee Springs owners are the ones being obstinate and denies that it wants the place shut down.
Lawsuits have flown back and forth. Mediation hasn't worked, so now it's left to a judge to sort out at a trial scheduled for August.
The owners of the attraction — actually the nine or so residents of the 1-square-mile city of Weeki Wachee — say they're digging in for another go-round with the state agency that nearly did away with the mermaids in 2003.
That time, the international media took note of the park's financial plight, money poured in from around the world and big-box retailers donated construction materials. People then started coming back to see the animal shows, swim in Buccaneer Bay and, of course, marvel at the comely young women in sequined mermaid tails performing choreographed routines in the shimmering spring.
But the park's owners and the water management agency have continued to butt heads over issues ranging from the wording and amount of the lease to the unauthorized dredging of the spring and whether the little city is even allowed by law to own the attraction.
Weeki Wachee Springs owners say a ruling against them on any one of several issues would allow the water board to revoke the lease. They believe the intent is to close the park and turn the spring and surrounding land into a state park, an idea that has been floated before by agency board members.