Editor’s note: This letter was also sent the the Board of County Commissioners.

Thank you for agreeing at yesterday’s meeting to explore the possibility of acquiring the three-plus acres of private property adjoining Ozello Community Park at Pirate’s Cove for the purpose of creating an enlarged and enhanced outdoor recreation park.

Having fished this area frequently over the past 14 years, and as a retired biologist with more than 30 years of experience managing and developing fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation resources, I’ve urged acquiring this property as an outstanding destination for paddlers, anglers, picnickers and other outdoor recreational enthusiasts.

I disagree with the views of one commissioner who suggested that this property is basically worthless because it sits within the flood zone and is not zoned for large projects. On the contrary, the owner, in the absence of county acquisition, will no doubt propose zoning changes, smaller scale projects, or perhaps, dividing his real estate into homesites that may well receive BOCC approval. Many feared the latest proposal would have been approved for the economic benefits it would have provided, had not the previous owner passed away prior to decision-making.

An eco-tourism oriented park at this location would offer the perfect complement to the county’s tourist attractions including manatee interactions, scalloping, biking and offshore fishing. It would have broad regional appeal, require minimal maintenance and provide solid long-term benefit–cost rewards.

Not only would this property expand and diversify tourism opportunities, it would have value in relieving the county’s severe crowding problem at Hunter Springs Park and other water access locations.

Subjecting this property to development or leaving it vacant providing no benefits to residents and visitors makes no sense.

I understand the previous owner of this property purchased it in 2004 for $464,000, and that it is now appraised for $260,000.

It behooves you to pursue serious negotiations with the owner for the purpose of reaching a fair and reasonable purchase price for this outstanding park site.

Acquisition of this property coupled with creation of a boat launch site on the barge canal would be game changers for the county.

Gary Rankel

Hernando

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