Florida Mermaids in Lease Battle
Posted Aug 17, 2007 9:39 AM CST
By Martha Neil
Things are hardly going swimmingly right now for a group of Florida mermaids. Their historic tourist attraction, Weeki Wachee Springs, is in a lawsuit battle with a state agency known as Swiftmud.
At issue: the validity of the one-mile-square city's 30-year lease of the land on which it is built, and whether it has a legal right to continue to operate its 60-year-old business in Central Florida, about an hour north of Tampa. That business is mermaid shows, described by the Miami Herald as a kitschy but nonetheless wondrous choreography of aquatic ballet and skits by beautiful sequin-tailed, bra-topped swimmers. The attraction, performed in a glass-walled underground pool fronting a theater 16 feet below the surface, attracts 20 percent as many tourists as it used to, before the Internet age.
''Everything is at stake. Our history, our livelihoods, our community,'' says former mermaid Robyn Anderson. She is now Weeki Wachee's mayor, general manager.
''Our position has always been that we are trying to protect the springs and the people who enjoy it,'' says Michael Molligan, a Swiftmud spokesman. "This has dragged on way too long.''