Liberty Park Needs More Time, Not a Beach



The University of Tampa developed into a special place for me as I entered my senior year of undergraduate work in 2010. Knowing that I wanted to become a professor there, I catered career decisions toward returning. I got my chance in 2018 to start as a part-time adjunct instructor. This was it. I was on my way.


Over the next year, I applied to four full-time positions, interviewing for one, but ultimately wasn’t selected. To make matters worse, my part-time classes weren’t offered the following semester. I was out.


After nine years of working toward a goal and having my foot in the door, I was no longer employed at the university in the fall of 2019 roughly a year and a half after I had begun.


It hurt. I thought about applying to work at other colleges or giving up on academia to focus instead on my political consulting business. But I had put in too much work to abandon the plan at the first sign of adversity.


The City of Inverness should not pursue the beach at Liberty Park for this same reason. The justification for the beach, and its $350,000-$500,000 estimated price tag, is that the park remodel project has not produced the amount of interest from the public as expected. Those in favor of the beach argue as this Chronicle editorial does, “A city on a lake needs a beach. A beach would benefit area residents and downtown businesses.”


The editorial continues comparing the Inverness beach to the Rainbow River in Dunnellon and the beachfront lake portion in Hernando. Let’s look at this supporting evidence closer. The Rainbow River is far more similar to what Crystal River has with Hunter Springs than it is to what Inverness has with Big Lake Henderson, but the Hernando beach comparison is one worth making. I just don’t know if the residents would consider it one worth following.


Having no hard data with which to support my claim, I’m not going to disparage the Hernando beach or discount the possibility it has been a community success, but I would challenge the Chronicle to also provide data as to why it has been before advocating that the residents of Inverness spend a half million dollars to follow suit.

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Big Lake Henderson has a swimming area now off Wallace Brooks Park. It is marked on the map accompanying this story with a bold white line to the left of the text denoting the park. The argument for the beach appears to be as much about attracting swimmers from land as it is bringing boats in from the lake.


The proposed beach moorings, in addition to being near Liberty Park, are also directly next to a multi-million dollar tract of lakefront land for sale. Whoever buys the orange grove will likely develop it for future residents, and as we’ve seen in Homosassa this month, quality of life drops when boats congregate near homes.


Neither the enormous price tag, the existing swimming location nor the potential of government creating a Homosassa-type situation for future residents is the point of why the city shouldn’t do it though.


The point is it changes the use of the park before we’ve had a true chance to see if a plan that was 11 years in the making can work. Planning for the Depot began around 2008 and the ribbon was cut November of 2019.


Just 18 months would be a short amount of time to evaluate the use of a $12-$13 million project during normal circumstances. If you consider the effect of covid during nearly the entire time it's been open, the city’s consideration to change the use of this project is unthinkable.


Most of the council has been elected for the whole time this project has been planned and many were raised in the city. They know what Liberty Park can be with more time, and deep down they know what it won’t be with the addition of the beach.


I ended up teaching again at the University of Tampa in the spring of 2020. It was only one class. It was slow. It was painful. But it was something.


That something led to another opportunity, and I have been a full-time professor there for the last year.


Attempting to spend your way out of adversity may feel better than enduring it. But the city has come so far. It can wait a little longer to see its decade-long plan realized.