HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — The Weeki Wachee River is facing "detrimental long-term harm." That's what a study conducted in 2020 by Hernando County and state environmental officials found.
The source, researchers said? Kayakers and boaters.
For that reason, county leaders announced on Thursday that a protective zone would be placed along the river. The zone prohibits anchoring, mooring, beaching and grounding vessels along the 7.4-mile river in order to "protect the ecological environment."
The county says the boundary of the zone begins upstream at the state park and ends at the Rogers Park boat ramp canal.
“The Weeki Wachee River is the premier kayaking and paddle boarding River in the state of Florida. The cool sparkling water coming from this first magnitude spring is a natural gem that should be protected for all of Hernando citizens and visitors to enjoy,” stated Jeff Rogers, Hernando County Administrator.
In 2018, community members raised their concerns over the impact boaters were having on the river, prompting the Southwest Florida Water Management District to conduct a year-long study.
SWFMD found that an average of 185 vessels were launching from the river every day – with the highest being nearly 700 vessels in a single day. According to the agency, the crowds were impacting the river's soil and vegetation by docking along its shores.
The protection zone does not apply to property owners along the river, according to the county.
“I am proud of the tough decision that the Board of County Commissioners made to preserve the long-term natural beauty of the Weeki Wachee River for all future generations to follow. I believe this will be looked upon as one of the best decisions that the Hernando County government has provided the leadership to make," Rogers said.