Mermaid Trail 2 Receives County Funding
Tourism Development Director Tammy Heon will be able to begin forming the second installment of the Florida Mermaid Trail. The county’s $75,000 investment will pay for the creation of six-foot-tall statues modeled after the famous Weeki Wachee mermaids, who will celebrate their 75th birthday in October. The first Florida Mermaid Trail is a 2.2-mile trail through downtown Brooksville where visitors are encouraged to find 21 miniature mermaid statues hidden in locations around town.
The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously approved funding for the second Mermaid Trail at the regular meeting on March 8, 2022.
The Heon Tourism Department, in partnership with Brooksville Main Street and the Hernando County Board of Fine Arts, will work together to coordinate the public art project, which is expected to bring new tourists to Hernando County.
Local businesses can sponsor a mermaid statue for $3,500, securing their place along the trail and attracting new customers. The sponsor agreement states that sponsors will agree to a minimum of 3 years to display the siren and may continue to do so for up to 12 years. The proceeds cover trail construction expenses and generate income for the tourism fund.
Chairman Steve Champion started the discussion by asking Heon what the BOCC’s role would be in the development of the Mermaid Trail. “I think it should be a private thing, I don’t think we should put too much money into it.”
Heon explained that eventually private sponsorships will pay for the statues, but his department needs funding to get the project off the ground.
Heon’s presentation listed sixteen potential sponsors who expressed interest in the project.
Heon described the initial $15,000 first phase as “having a lot of moving parts,” including the employment of a live mermaid (we’re assuming a mermaid actor) whose face will be cast for replicas. Each mold will be created from fiberglass by an expert formerly employed by Universal Studios. Local artists will be sought, their creations evaluated and approved. Each artist will receive $1,000 for their work.
Upon completion, the six-foot-tall mermaid will be tied to a four-foot-wide cement platform.
The mold materials will cost around $11,000, and Heon said the remaining $4,000 will be for marketing.
Additionally, smaller statues will be sold at a retail location, to create a source of income to maintain the statues. Heon said she wants experts to be involved in the upkeep of the statues, rather than individual sponsors because of the specialized materials that will be used in their creation.
Commissioner Jeff Holcomb expressed concern about damage and subsequent repairs to the statues, and Heon explained that each sponsor is required to have liability insurance on their statue and ultimately be responsible for any repair costs. Liability insurance would fall under a marine policy “due to the nature of the product”. It may refer to fiberglass material, not because it is mermaids.
Addressing the issue of vandalism, Heon said the statues will be illuminated when placed in a park or outdoor venue. She said her department initially did not want to put fences around the statues, to invite visitors to take photos.
The cost of installing the statues has not yet been determined.