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Inglis mayor talks about proposed venue at dam

By Sean Arnold

Sean Arnold

For the Riverland News

The plan for a whitewater kayak venue in Inglis was first proposed around 2000, with an eye toward possibly serving the 2012 Summer Olympics, if they were to be held in Tampa.

Though those plans were washed away, the project never quite died.

Now the town is moving forward with a feasibility study this April, which could attract a concessionaire that could finally bring the venue to fruition.

Inglis mayor Drinda Merritt announced the latest developments at the Levy County Commission meeting Jan. 9.

The venue would be established south of Highway 40, where the canal for the now defunct Cross Florida Barge connects with the lower Withlacoochee River.

“That canal has about a 22-foot drop from the damn down to the where it reconnects with the river,” Merritt said. “So it was brought to my attention several years ago that if we reverse-engineered it, we could make a whitewater kayaking venue there.”

Inglis has worked to get funding for a study to determine the economic impact on the area that such a venue would bring.

In 2000, the economic impact study suggested it would be worth around $300 million per year for Levy, Marion and Citrus County.

After investigating plans to revive the project with the Withlacoochee River Economic

Development Compact, Merritt said the University of Florida offered an $80,000 feasibility study, which the town couldn’t afford.

The University of Central Florida later offered a $30,000 study, and Inglis, with the help of private partners such as Florida High Tech Corridor, the Felburn Foundation, Nature Coast Economic Development Council and Duke Energy, secured funding for the economic study at the end of last year.

In addition to the kayaking, Merritt said the recreational site could include a zip line, a disc golf course, a dog park, and hiking and mountain biking trails.

Furthermore, there are also plans to connect the area with the Dunnellon Trail, which would connect Inglis to the Florida Greenways and Trails System. There are already plans in motion to connect Chiefland with the trail system in Dunnellon.

Merritt says Inglis is working with the Office of Greenways and Trails on the project, which operates within the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.