Hanging out in Old Homosassa
Then there’s…Old Homosassa.
Turning onto Fishbowl Drive off Halls River Road sends me into an immediate time warp. More than anywhere in Citrus County, other than my hometown Inverness, my deepest memories in 35 years are of Old Homosassa.
Each visit there, either work or pleasure, allows my mind to slow down because it’s just that kind of atmosphere. No one ever seems in a hurry in Old Homosassa.
Monday was no different.
After exploring the no-parking lanes of Halls River Road (see Tuesday’s blog), I headed into Old Homosassa, past the wildlife park on Fishbowl Drive.
I will save my Lu the hippo story for another day, but I always have a little inner smile driving past that park. It alone has brought me so many memories. Here’s my earliest one:
When the state was looking to buy the property to save it from potential development, a local businesswoman had captured the support from the Florida lieutenant governor, a man by the name of Bobby Brantley.
Because I was young and stupid, I called the lieutenant governor’s office looking to interview Lt. Gov. Brantley. Like he has time for the Citrus County Chronicle. The secretary said she’d pass on the message.
So imagine all our surprises when, a while later, the phone rang and someone shouted in the newsroom that the lieutenant governor was on the line for me.
Truthfully, I can’t remember a thing the man said. I’m sure it was important and worthwhile because the state bought the park and we are all the recipients of that gift.
All these years in Florida, and the only lieutenant governors I recall are Brantley and Buddy MacKay.
I drove slowly past the park toward the bridge that crosses the Blue Waters of Homosassa Springs. It was still a little chilly Monday, so not too many boats anchored in the spring.
This is the site where the “yahoos” are hanging out in the summer, creating headaches for residents who have to put up with the loud music, offensive language and overall bad behavior.
It was so bad that Sheriff Mike Prendergast, standing with his officers in the park on Memorial Day 2021 weekend, told commissioners last July he wouldn’t bring his grandchildren to the Homosassa River on a weekend.
Lots of discussion by commissioners about what to do but in the end nothing was done. Expect more talk on this as the warmer weather returns.
I continued along Fishbowl to Yulee Drive, and the pleasant drive into Old Homosassa proper, past the Sugar Mill Ruins and the house (I’m told) Mike Hampton built for his parents, eventually ending at MacRae’s.
I went into the store and bought a root beer, sitting on the bench outside the bait shop where I’ve sat so many times before and thousands, at least, have sat as well. Twenty minutes sitting outside MacRae’s, watching boats drift by, some stopping for gas for a bite to eat, Crump’s Landing directly across the river. Pelicans hanging out for lunch while a fisherman cleans his catch.
After chatting a little with the store guys, I went for a little walk to the Florida Cracker Riverside Resort, home of the one and only Monkey Island. I mean…who doesn’t like Monkey Island? Always brings a smile.
I was strolling through the parking lot to the resort boat ramp when I noticed some very expensive looking houses on the other side of the canal and thought, Holy cow, that's Stewart Island!
Twenty years or so ago, a Gasparilla Cay man named Dave Stewart had an idea to develop a man-made island for homes. This did not sit well with much of Homosassa, and it was debated for years. I barely remember thinking even after it was approved for a one-lane bridge right next to Homosassa Elementary School that no one in his right mind would build there.
Says the man now staring at three-story homes on the Homosassa River.
I headed back to Inverness along Grover Cleveland Boulevard, underneath the Suncoast Parkway overpass. That thing will open in a few weeks and life and we know it goes into a whole other segment. What that looks like, guess we’ll find out together.
No point today but this: Old Homosassa has history and character. The folks here don’t always get along. But visit Homosassa for the annual arts and seafood festival and you’ll see a community gel. Same thing after a bad storm or flood. And they’ll show up in blue T-shirts at county commission meetings to speak with one voice when the times call for it.
As Citrus County evolves, places like Homosassa, Floral City, Ozello, Chassahowitzka and others will hold even more significance. If you live in this county and haven’t spent time in Old Homosassa, I encourage you to do so.
Pelicans can use the company.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.