Hernando Beach could finally get a beach

- The community of Hernando Beach could finally get a beach. Yes, ironically, for all these years, there's never actually been one. But the county is considering creating a beach, complete with sand, kayaking, and fishing.

In Hernando Beach, there's a "Beach Bar" and restaurant called "R Beach." But, nowhere is there an actual beach.

"We moved down here two years ago and of course, you've got this huge sign there, the waterfall and everything and dolphins and the birds and everything, so yeah, we'll find the beach," said Ray Morin.

You can probably guess what happened next.

"We drove around for three or four days trying to find the beach!" Morin laughed. "It's like, you can't find the beach because there is no beach!"

Talk about a misnomer.

"It's strange. It's strange," said Kelly Peabody.

But, those sand-and-shore-loving folks may soon get their wish. Next Tuesday, the Hernando County Commission will discuss a proposal to finally put the "beach" in Hernando Beach. The conceptual drawing shows that it would be part of a new park built in the Weekiwachee Preserve.

"We've looked at it as a possibility because it's gorgeous waters," said Hernando County Administrator Leonard Sossamon. "They're deep. Might be 60 feet deep from the old mining operations."

Building there would involve a land swap with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which owns the preserve. The county would trade one of several land areas, better suited for preservation purposes.

The Weekiwachee Preserve land would be used for more than just a beach. Plans show fishing platforms, a trail, picnic areas and kayak rentals.

"It would add some additional kayak opportunities, canoeing opportunities,' Sossamon said. "It would probably release some of the pressure we already have existing on the Weeki Wachee River, alleviate, reduce some of that traffic."

Sossamon says one option for funding could come through the RESTORE Act, which is paying for damages suffered from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

"We're going to get several million dollars over the next 15 years and from my perspective, those funds could be used to help develop the beach as well as other adventure opportunities out on our coast," Sossamon said.

"This news about a beach actually coming here? Fantastic," Ray Morin said. "I'd love to see it,"

Beach or no beach, two years later, Morin is still here.

"It is a beautiful area. Wildlife here is fantastic. We are very happy to be here," he added.

If the commission decides to move forward, they'll have to strike a deal with Southwest Florida Water Management District. After that, there will be public meetings so the county can find out what type of beach people want, or if they don't want one at all. It could be several years before people there get the chance to spread their towels in the sand.

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