BROOKSVILLE — County Administrator Len Sossamon said Hernando County will match the $3 million state lawmakers appropriated for the proposed Nature Coast Educational Plaza.
Sossamon said the facility planned for somewhere in the area would be an economic boost for the county.
“We see this as a wonderful regional tourism draw that will increase economic development, create jobs and provide for educational opportunities for Florida’s visitors and residents,” Sossamon wrote to Gov. Rick Scott in a May 19 memorandum.
The Tampa Bay area, Sossamon said, continues to grow and is poised for growth.
“Unfortunately, the growth in Hernando, to date, has not capitalized on the wonderful natural environment that attracts nature enthusiasts from across the country,” Sossamon wrote. “There is very limited access to the Gulf of Mexico.”
To that end, Sossamon said the county has developed a master plan to increase tourism and improve access to the Gulf, various quarry lakes in the area and spots that attract bird-watching enthusiasts.
The proposed Nature Coast Educational Plaza has created a firestorm of criticism from residents in Hernando Beach, who worry the facility will be built on narrow Shoal Line Boulevard and create congestion.
Dozens of them packed the last county commission meeting to protest the plan set forth by owners of a marina who approached the county about building it there.
Commissioners tabled discussion of the matter until their June 24 meeting, allowing the project’s applicants, Gordon and Ron Wolf, to prepare a legal stance.
Sossamon said the county has no signed contract for the center slated to be built at the Shoal Line site, behind the Blue Pelican Marina that is owned by the Wolf Brothers.
Sossamon said other areas could be considered, including Osowaw Boulevard, site of a decommissioned wastewater treatment plant.
State lawmakers appropriated $4 million in the state budget for the project, but county officials say Scott likely will consider only $3 million when he considers signing off on the proposal.
“Be assured that Hernando County will match dollar to dollar the investment the state of Florida chooses to make in this project,” Sossamon wrote.