First of two parts.
It’s Feb. 1 and you know what that means.
Actually, you don’t. So I’ll spill it: 35 years!
February marks 35 years since I moved to Citrus County from Big Rapids, Michigan (the only Big Rapids in the United States).
So what better way to mark the milestone than take a drive to Homosassa for the heck of it.
I hadn’t planned to do that. I started at home in Inverness, drove to Crystal River on an errand, then decided to see how U.S. 19 is shaping up.
Next thing, I’m taking a photo of the Gasparilla Cay sign at the end of Halls River Road.
I’ve long had an affinity for Homosassa. Had I not been raised in Inverness, I’m sure Homosassa would have been the second choice.
There is just a mystic to that place. Hard for me to describe. With every trip, I not only visit Homosassa, I experience it.
Take Monday. Once I took that right at Halls River Road, my first thought was to get pictures of static signs and scenic rivers which, if you’re a loyal Just Wright Citrus reader, will know those are pretty much my bread-and-butter photo ideas.
So I took the road west across the infamous Halls River bridge, to the very end for the short loop at Gasparilla Cay. All my years here, I’ve known exactly one person who lived in Gasparilla Cay. The one Gasparilla Cay person I knew ended up being a pretty significant newsmaker in Homosassa, as I will explain Wednesday.
(And, yes, I like typing “Gasparilla Cay”. Just two very cool words together.)
Heading back east, I couldn’t help but park my car along the right of way, behind other cars parked in the right of way, between signs that say, “No parking on right of way”.
Look. I get it. Parking along Halls River Road, I mean, the county just can’t allow it, right? But this particular spot is right next to a popular restaurant on the Halls River with an often full lot. Parking on the shoulder here is a Homosassa tradition.
(Publisher’s note: Just Wright Citrus does not condone illegal parking. As if that matters.)
Then there’s the bridge. I’m not going to get into the background of that project, but it’s a very nice bridge with sidewalks that allow me to view the river strolling across while separated from traffic. I walked both sides of the bridge and it was very enjoyable.
But…the only way to get TO the bridge to enjoy the walk across is to either park illegally,as I did, or walk from somewhere else along Halls River Road which, as previously explained with this road, isn’t a pleasure stroll.
The county wants to put in one of those walk/bike paths on Halls River Road. Count me in on that idea. Not only for safety, but man, that's just a beautiful little drive between U.S. 19 and Crump’s Landing. I can see a path as a huge draw, for tourists and us Citrus Countians as well.
And, please, for the love of God, don’t throw a bucket of cold water on the idea by reminding everyone how expensive it is, can’t afford it, roads are in bad shape, keep taxes low blah blah blah.
I’m suggesting a different approach. Rather than immediately give all reasons why good ideas will fail, let’s instead talk about whether the idea has merit. Forgetting at the moment all other challenges — financial, environmental — focus on the positives of the idea. Maybe the idea is lousy. If so, drop it.
My hunch is placing a walk/bike path on Halls River Road is the opposite of lousy. This is a county that thrives on getting outside. We have paths in Inverness, Floral City, Hernando, Crystal River and other parts because they are popular. Paths along Halls River Road and Fort Island Trail fit right into that.
No one’s rushing out tomorrow with a checkbook for a bike path. Despite what some people think of them, county commissioners are not dummies. They’re not going to fall on political swords over this one.
It’s my hope they won’t have to. I’m absolutely encouraging folks to keep an open mind about this. And, for Pete’s sake, if you haven’t taken this drive, please do so.
Tomorrow I’ll be discussing the other half of Monday’s drive — Old Homosassa. The stories I could tell…
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.