By Randall Grantham
I am outraged! After everything else the government has done to waste money and over-complicate what should be quite simple things, I am outraged and in disbelieving shock over this latest stunt.
In today’s tough economic times, especially for state governments which are having to make deep cuts, raise fees and limit access, this move strikes me as sheer ignorance. We’ve got rich philanthropists giving money to the city government just to let poor kids be able to pay for access to the city swimming pool and the state government is proving that what they do best is to screw up things that are going perfectly well.
I’m talking about the recent news that the state has changed the rules at state parks like Homosassa Springs and Weeki Wachee. The new rules require that we spend money we don’t have, and didn’t have to spend before, to meet new overly protective state requirements.
These parks, and maybe others in the state, have large glass windows that allow visitors to observe activities in the crystal clear waters of the springs they showcase. In Weeki Wachee, it’s scale-clad mermaid shows through aquarium-style vertical windows. In Homosassa, it’s a circular observatory a few feet below the surface in the middle of the large spring allowing visitors to see manatee, snook, mullet and all manner of salt and fresh water species that are drawn to the fount.
For good reason, it’s called the “fishbowl.” And for years, in both of these parks, the windows have been cleaned safely, efficiently and FREE to taxpayers and park visitors. Volunteers, who are certified SCUBA divers have signed up and waited their turn for the privilege of dropping into those waters and scrubbing the algae off of the glass.
Now, because some overweight, cigarette-smoking, cocaine-using guy with mental health issues drowns while diving for mooring sites in the Dry Tortugas Park (that’s in the ocean, by the way), the free ride is over, folks.
Instead of having two volunteer divers working on the “buddy system” clean the glass that is suspended over the Homosassa Spring, but only a few feet from water that is less than five feet deep, we will now have to pay commercial divers to do the same job. And, considering the cost, instead of daily cleanings, we’re now down to weekly.
And that’s not the worst of it. Instead of two guys who are actually doing some work, there will have to be a total of four guys (or girls). There will still only be two doing the actual work, but now there will be another guy that gets to just float on the surface, watching the two guys work.
Wait! It gets better. There will also be a fourth guy required to stand up on the observatory and watch the guy watching the two guys doing the work. Does this sound like a civil service job or what? It’s like one of those (alleged) mafia union “jobs” I’ve seen on TV.
I’ve got a better idea. And, although it could be as simple a thing as tying the two guys working to the surface with a line, it’s even better. Manatee are also called “sea cows” right? Well if they’re anything like the real cows that I grew up around, they have very rough tongues. So we simply develop an emulsion of romaine lettuce, their favorite food in captivity – some sort of magic manatee mush that is spread on or impregnated into the glass.
We get the manatees themselves to keep the windows clean by the constant tongue scrubbing! Brilliant!
As for Weeki Wachee, they are having the mermaids clean the glass. They’re certified commercial divers now and that task has been added to their job description. But I do have a suggestion for that park too: sell tickets to the cleaning sessions. I would pay to see that over The Little Mermaid show any day.
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