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Crystal River can’t get enough manatees.

Save Crystal River (SCR) kicked off Manatee Fever to not just fundraise for the nonprofit’s rehabilitation of King’s Bay, but to also spur involvement and exploration within the city.

“It should put us on the map,” SCR treasurer Terry Thompson said, promoting the project to Crystal River City Council Monday, Nov. 8.

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It’s SCR’s hope to raise enough money to create between 10 and 15 5-foot-tall fiberglass manatees for local artists to paint with designs personalized by who owns a sculpture.

Afterward, SCR will use these monuments as points of interest for Crystal River’s visitors to find on their travels in the city.

SCR is looking for at least 10 people to sign a letter agreeing to be a part of Manatee Fever. Once SCR has its commitment letters, the project starts.

Thompson told the Chronicle Wednesday seven letters were in hand.

Want to be involved? Contact Thompson at either 352-895-3561 or terry@savecrystalriver.com.

For more information about Save Crystal River and its King's Bay Restoration Project, visit savecrystalriver.com.

These custom marine mammals each cost $7,500, which is paid off by their owners with three installments of $2,500 throughout the course of the project.

After SCR has the first round of payments, it will construct manatee molds made from a fiberglass and resin composite. Owners of the sculptures will then randomly draw the name of their artist who'll be tasked to paint their respective manatee.

A second payment of $2,500 covers the design cost, which also includes a plaque of the manatee’s name, the name of its owner and their business, the name of its painter and Save Crystal River.

Once the artists complete their work, the third and final payment becomes due.

Afterward, SCR will display the manatee sculptors during a Crystal River Main Street First Friday event at the city’s town square for the public to vote on its top three designs.

SCR will use the favorites to create promotional T-shirts.

Money not used to pay for the manatee molds and the artists will go towards SCR’s general fund to keep its restoration project permit and shovel ready.  

“We’re just trying to just stay ahead,” Thompson said about SCR’s ongoing push to rejuvenate the bay’s bottom with native eelgrasses, “which is why we’re going after this.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916,  bthompson@chronicleonline.com or visit tinyurl.com/yxn2ahso to see more of his stories.