For more than 70 years, since Navy veteran Newton Perry opened the doors of Weeki Wachee Springs, the park--featuring professionally produced and performed mermaid shows, riverboat cruises, and animal shows--has served as a place of otherworldly fantasy for both local residents and tourists around the world. Then, last spring, the park closed temporarily.
On Thursday, March 18, the mermaids swam again.
"The park has REOPENED!" declares a banner topping the page at https://weekiwachee.com/.
This spirit of celebration is further reflected on the park's Facebook page, where the post announcing the park's reopening generated 1,000 emoji reactions, 275 comments, and 707 shares in six days.
Commenters posted happy gifs, proclamations of excitement, and promises to visit soon with their families. And when they do, they will see a renovated and restored Weeki Wachee.
"The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is committed to providing quality, resource-based recreation for the residents of Florida and visitors to our state. At the same time, DEP is unwavering in its commitment to preserving Florida’s natural resources for future generations," said Alexandra Kuchta, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Press Secretary. "Following the completion of an extensive restoration project geared toward improving water quality in the Weeki Wachee Spring and River, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park returned to daily operations on Thursday, March 18, with operating hours of 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.” From March 22-May 29, the waterslides, kiddie pool, and lazy river will only be available on weekends. The waterpark will open full-time for the summer on May 29.
The swimming/beach areas will remain open daily.
The restoration project, which commenced in late May 2020, installed erosion control devices to prevent stormwater runoff issues. In addition, retention ponds were built to collect stormwater and prevent sediments and pollutants from entering the spring area. And the Thunderbolt Waterslide was uninstalled for safety reasons.
"While we are excited that the park has reopened, visitors should be aware of a few operational changes," said Kuchta. "Our world-famous mermaid show has resumed operation with limited seating to help ensure the health and safety of all visitors and staff. Guests who wish to secure a seat for the mermaid show are encouraged to arrive when the park opens. Visitors should wear a mask and groups should maintain distances of at least six feet apart."
Kuchta also specified further directives regarding the reopening:
The Ranger Experience has limited seating.
The Wilderness River Cruise is not yet operational.
Outdoor cooking, including with a grill or any type of heating element, is not permitted at the park. All coolers that enter the park must be 45 quarts or smaller.
For more information, guests are encouraged to visit the park’s webpage.
Back on the Weeki Wachee Springs Facebook page, a video hosted by Mermaid Kourtney displays and details some of the new safety and sanitization measures in place at the park. And viewers are treated to shots of the park that has become a community landmark.
"(Weeki Wachee) is probably Hernando County's oldest park and such a tourist attraction for many years," said Morris Porton, President/CEO of Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce. "I don’t know anyone in our County that has not attended the park and Buccaneer Bay. With its beauty and name recognition, it has put Hernando County on the map for many years. With its natural environment, it can be an attraction for the young and elderly."
And as shows commence and fans flock once again to see the Weeki Wachee Mermaids in motion, they will once again--as their famous theme song indicates--have 'the world by the tail!'