March 11, 2017. The following letter was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on March 9.
Kudos to those responsible for finally providing a suitable kayak launch site at Hunter Springs Park. It’s a most welcome addition to this nicely rehabilitated park, and has the potential to become its crown jewel attraction.
In my short visit to the park Saturday afternoon, just four days after the launch opened, I observed more than 20 paddlers launching their plastic vessels. Some folks had transported them to the park, while others rented from a good selection of single and tandem yaks furnished onsite by Hunter Springs Kayaks of Crystal River. A few renters I talked to were new to the area, and, prior to launching, received a short indoctrination from rental company staff on safety measures, manatee manners, and points of interest in the Kings Bay area.
I wonder how much use the launch site will receive once locals become more familiar with it, and if marketed to visitors looking for more adventurous close encounters with manatees than offered from the board walk overlooking Three Sisters Springs. I would guess that most “manatrolley” riders would enjoy a stop at the park. Too bad it’s a bit too far removed from serving as the terminus for the Riverwalk.
Given all the activity at the launch site, while only four sunbathers occupied the adjacent and much more expansive swimming beach, maybe a larger portion of the common sandy area should be dedicated to paddlers, with, perhaps, a second put-in site, during the manatee season. The beach could easily revert back to primary swimming / sunbathing use during the warmer months.
It would be helpful to place a pictorial display of the Kings Bay area near the kayak unloading zone to facilitate area orientation for visiting paddlers.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have similar paddling opportunities and launch sites available at Fort Island beach and the lakeside parks in Inverness to better distribute visitor use?