It’s a beautiful Wednesday in Inverness so let’s go to the beach.
Well, um, technically we don’t have one. That could soon change.
The city wants to dredge a stretch of Big Lake Henderson to create a sandy-bottom beach at Wallace Brooks Park.
This idea is nothing new. Ever since the state closed the “beach” on S.R. 44 across from the VFW post, the city has eyed an actual public beach at Wallace Brooks or Liberty parks and I'm all for it.
There is, of course, one slight challenge:
Alligators. They’re in the lake, as they are known to show up in Florida fresh bodies of water.
Some people wonder if Inverness knows what it’s doing.
Posting a photo of a gator in Big Lake Henderson, someone recently wrote on the Chronicle’s Facebook page: “I’m sorry, but what are the plans to relocate wildlife so they are not affected? This photo was taken in April 2023. You want people to swim here?”
I’ve spotted a few gators over the years on the lake outside Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters. And we hear them at night.
Coming home a few years ago I saw something that looked like an old tire on the other side of my gate. Two steps out of the car and I realized it was no old tire but rather one of our scaly smiling friends. I hightailed back to the car; fortunately, it had no interest in me and wandered to the lake.
Every so often while walking on the state trail I'll see a gator near Cooter Pond. I always keep my distance.
Whenever I mention seeing a gator, someone asks: “How big was it?”
I’ll save you the trouble. They’re all 12 feet long.
Look. Florida alligators are the real deal. They’re not gentle sea cows that roll over to have their bellies scratched in the wild. Alligators are killers.
Yet, incredibly, I see people tossing food to gators off the Wallace Brooks boat pier quite regularly. Seriously, if you’re new here and think alligators are cute, they’re not. This isn’t a petting zoo.
I asked City Manager Eric Williams about putting a public beach on a lake where gators reside, and whether the city plans to have the game commission relocate them (gators, not people).
His email reply was most telling. Williams reminded me that we have freshwater beaches all through Florida, including up the road at Lake Hernando. And other critters in various waters where people gather.
“Being in jest, but also making a point, what is the shark relocation program at all the beaches in Florida?” he wrote.
OK, I get it. We shouldn’t be so concerned about gator attacks on future Wallace Brooks Parks beach swimmers.
Inverness has eyed a beach for decades. The city’s unofficial beach was on S.R. 44 near the boat ramp; when the state widened the road, it put the boat ramp parking lot across the street and the beach ceased to exist.
The beach resurrected of sorts unofficially at Wallace Brooks Park. The sort of way ordinary people make something happen without the government’s help. Despite signs in the park warning people not to swim due to alligators, folks are in the water all the time.
The city initially had planned the beach at Liberty Park but then learned it owned submerged land for dredging at Wallace Brooks. Not sure of the project's timetable.
Most of this I know from living here or reading the Chronicle, but I’m somewhat confused by the city’s lakefront plans and the costs.
I’ve asked Williams for a breakdown on Depot District costs up to ribbon cutting in 2019 and what it’s cost the city since then. He's working on getting the info to me.
The city is talking about moving the boat slips from Wallace Brooks to Liberty and returning the Wallace Brooks fishing pier. Essentially redoing what was just done only a few years ago.
That may be cheap but I doubt it.
The city for decades has discussed a beach on Big Lake Henderson for all to enjoy, so it makes perfect sense to continue down that path.
Moving the boat docks --- is that a need or a want?
But that discussion is for another day.
Beach day, anyone?
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.