SAVANNAH — In a crushing blow to the Citrus County economy, a local blogger has announced plans to relocate to this historic Southern city.
“Just Wright Savannah” kicks off today with a deep dive into Peach State politics.
Sorry…had to do that.
I haven’t written anything with a dateline in quite a few years.
Datelines used to mean something long ago, the location of important news taking place. With a constant barrage of information at our fingertips, datelines have lost their significance.
I slapped that one on today’s blog because it is being written, as the dateline suggests, in an Airbnb at a public square where Abercorn and Taylor Streets meet. We are in Savannah for a few days, a rare and brief jaunt away from the greater Citrus County area.
I usually don’t work while out of town but the idea of driving five hours to Inverness on Sunday and then writing my 10th volume of the Inverness Villages 4 tome just didn’t sit well.
So here are some observations on Citrus County tourism from the Garden of Good and Evil:
— As much as I enjoy a good drive, the best sight-seeing is on foot. I walked, oh, approximately, 4 million steps since Thursday evening exploring all I can of this city.
Roughly the difference between Crystal River and Inverness (Scotland).
Anything we can do in Citrus County to encourage walking/biking is super positive. The trail system, walkable communities, parks and playgrounds — healthy tourism attracts healthy tourists who aren’t yahoos on the Homosassa River.
— Savannah…you’ve heard of it, right? Probably saw some promotion somewhere, telling about the history and town squares.
Now. Can you say the same thing about Chatham County, where Savannah is located? How about the cities of Pooler or Port Wentworth, which also are in Chatham County?
Yet, I doubt the Pooler faithful complain about Savannah getting all the tourism love in Chatham County.
In Citrus County, I realize there’s tourism jealousy outside of Crystal River and Homosassa. Inverness wants its tourism dollars too.
The circumstances are somewhat similar. In terms of tourism attributes alone, both Savannah and Crystal River were born on third base.
Savannah brings history, art, ethnicity, architecture and a helluva good time into an economy that looks like it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
The purchase and opening of Three Sisters Springs has transformed Crystal River from a bucket list destination to what we see today. Tourists are pouring into Crystal River because of that place and they really like what they see of the city.
Crystal River leaders, business owners and citizens became welcoming to the tourists who were attracted to the manatees at Three Sisters, which just happens to be in their city.
See how that works? Crystal River gets the tourists nonetheless, just as Savannah would. But I’m not sure I’d be planning my next Savannah visit if the city itself wasn’t so charming, inviting, inclusive and fun.
Three Sisters has made Crystal River a bonafide tourist destination today. Unlike anywhere else in Citrus County, Crystal River has specific tourist-related challenges.
Any significant conversation about Citrus County’s tourism future that doesn’t have Crystal River leading the way simply doesn’t make sense.
And that’s why Pooler isn’t the drawing card in Chatham County, Georgia.
— I alluded to this earlier, but what really attracts me to Savannah is the vibe.
Here’s what I saw this weekend: Families. Lots and lots of families. Young and mature families. It felt safe and inviting.
I took the hearty 20-minute walk downtown to River Street in the early evening and it was jumping. Not a huge crowd but a fun one. Couples on dates. Wide-eyed little kids with parents sipping on a cold one.
(I had a cold one too — grape Nehi.)
The locals I came across — waitresses, residents and merchants — were helpful and polite. I never heard a single word about politics.
I’m not suggesting we walk around with a fake smiley face; tourists can be, as we know, challenging to our daily way of life. But they’re a valuable part of our economic balance and, besides, it never hurts being nice.
Visitors return to Citrus County if they feel welcomed. They had a great time here, met wonderful people, marveled at natural beauty, ate in local restaurants and drove our roads. They returned to their hotel rooms or RVs at night and already started planning their return visit.
This was probably my 10th visit to Savannah and the best one yet. We look forward to our next visit.
That’s how we want tourists to leave Citrus County. They can’t wait to get back.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.