Tourism Development Director Tammy Heon will be able to begin forming the second installment of the Florida Mermaid Trail. The $75,000 investment from the county will pay for the creation of six-foot-tall statues modeled after the famous Weeki Wachee Mermaids, which will celebrate their 75th anniversary in October. The first Florida Mermaid Trail is a 2.2-mile trail through downtown Brooksville where visitors are encouraged to 21 find miniature mermaid statues hidden at locales throughout the city.
The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously approved the funding for the second Mermaid Trail at the regular meeting on March 8, 2022.
Heon’s Tourism Department, in partnership with Brooksville Main Street and the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, will work together to coordinate the public art project, expected to invite new tourism across Hernando County.
Local businesses can sponsor a mermaid statue for $3,500, securing their place along the trail as well as attracting new patrons. The sponsor agreement states sponsors will agree to a minimum of 3 years to display the mermaid and can continue to do so up to 12 years. The proceeds cover the expenses of building the trail and generate revenue for the tourism fund.
Chairman Steve Champion began the discussion by asking Heon what the BOCC’s role in the development of the Mermaid Trail would be. “I think this should be a private thing, I don’t think we should be putting too much money into this.”
Heon explained that, eventually, private sponsorships will pay for the statues however her department needs the funding to get the project launched.
Heon’s presentation listed sixteen potential sponsors that have expressed interest in the project.
Heon described the initial $15,000 first phase as “having a lot of moving pieces,” including employing a live mermaid (we’re assuming a mermaid actor) whose face will be cast for the replicas. Each mold will be created from fiberglass by an expert formerly employed by Universal Studios. Local artists will be sought, their designs evaluated and approved. Each artist will be paid $1,000 for their work.
In the end, the six-foot-tall mermaid will be attached to a four-foot-wide cement platform.
The mold materials will cost approximately $11,000 and Heon said the remaining $4,000 would be slated for marketing.
Additionally, smaller statues will be sold at a retail venue, to create a revenue stream to maintain the statues. Heon said she wishes for experts to be involved in the maintenance of the statues, rather than the individual sponsors due to the specialized materials that will be used in their creation.
Commissioner Jeff Holcomb expressed concern about damage and subsequent repair of the statues, and Heon explained that each sponsor is required to have liability insurance on their statue, and ultimately be responsible for repair costs. Liability insurance would be under a marine policy “because of the nature of the product.” This may refer to the fiberglass material, not because they are mermaids.
Addressing the question of vandalism, Heon said that the statues will be illuminated when placed in a park or outdoor venue. She said that her department does not initially wish to put fencing around the statues, to invite photo opportunities for visitors.
The cost of installing the statues has not yet been determined.