Tea Party of Crystal River to host manatee BBQ fundraiser

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By Frank Fencil | frank.fencil@springhillcourier.com

HOMASASSA, Florida – A local political organization is hoping to see fewer sea cows and more Sea-Doos in Crystal River.

The Tea Party of Crystal River is set to grill a manatee next weekend at a $20-a-plate fundraiser with the money designated to aid the group’s efforts to drive the docile giants out of the Homasassa Springs area for good and open the way for high-speed pleasure boating.

The issue is a contentious one for a small community with such strong ties to the Nature Coast’s tourism industry. Many residents have expressed an interest in doing all they can to help harbor the manatees, but Tea Party members have been outspoken against boating regulations being considered to protect the animals.

“God gave us this land, God gave us speedboats, and there’s no way we’re going to yield to a feral beast,” said John Shawnbrad, the organization’s treasurer. “We worked hard to buy these boats and paid a lot of money for premium fuel, and no one’s going to tell us we have to pilot them at a moderate speed through the channels where these animals seek relative warmth and safety in the winter months.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stands by its recommendation for a slow-speed zone.

“We’re just seeing so many manatees killed or maimed by people going too fast, and we’d just like for them to wait an extra couple minutes before taking it up a few knots,” Florida Fish and Wildlife ranger Bill Armstead said. “You’d be careful mowing your lawn if you knew kids were hiding in the grass. Just because you can chop something up and leave it to die doesn’t mean you should.”

Frank Fencil

Frank Fencil is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades' experience. He has uncovered government corruption, toppled dirty police forces and covered two foreign wars as an international correspondent. He chose to return to his native Spring Hill in hopes of giving his hometown the quality watchdog journalism it deserves.

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