Since we launched the Florida Mermaid Trail in February 2020, tens of thousands have enjoyed it and participated in the mermaid scavenger hunt while also learning some Brooksville history. Our office is at the first stop on the trail and it’s been so encouraging to see people of all ages walking it just about every day! Our restaurants and retail have appreciated the foot traffic it brings and we’ve had some great (and free) coverage of the trail from TV news and bloggers. When Matt and Bev Lowman brought me the idea in 2019, I don’t think any of us knew how important a success it would prove to be. Both the trail and the Lowmans have subsequently won Florida Secretary of State awards.
The mermaids are cast iron statues between 12-20 inches and are mounted on buildings in a 2.2 mile route. We started with 21 and have added a few “secret mermaids” each year that we unveil at our annual Florida Mermaid Trail Festival. None of the mermaids have been stolen or vandalized. Until now.
An older adult (a detail provided so no one is tempted to blame kids) went on a bit of a rampage in the Secret Garden at City Hall this week and removed our mermaid, Hyacinth, and landscaping we’d planted in the area around her. She drew attention to her behavior by throwing our flowers against City Hall office windows. City staff responded quickly and called the sheriff’s office to stop her. I found out about the incident later in the week and went to survey the damage and bring Hyacinth home. She first found her way to City Hall in February 2022, and in visiting her this week, I was reminded of the miracle of her having a home there.
When we initially planned out the trail, Brooksville Main Street’s relationship with the city was so adversarial they declined to have a mermaid on any City property. In fact, if the City Manager had been able to figure out how, he’d have stopped us from creating the trail altogether. But thanks to private property rights and the funding of the Lowmans, we were able to make it a reality. The pandemic crisis arrived just a few months later and the trail became an important economic driver in a chaotic time.
When the City Manager accidentally sold the water tower in 2021, he was relieved of his duties and the bulk of the tension between the city and Brooksville Main Street left with him. I cannot even remotely express how much more productive both entities have been able to be now that we are genuine partners in revitalizing our community. Add to that the fact we also have county government, businesses, nonprofits, churches, and philanthropists all moving in the same direction and it is simply a lovely miracle. A donor yesterday told me there is a spirit of giving over Brooksville right now. I couldn’t agree more – a spirit of giving of our time, talent and treasure is in the air. It’s beyond rewarding to be involved at this moment in this city – and I believe we will look back at this time in Brooksville as one of pivotal positive placemaking.
So Hyacinth is visiting my house for the weekend for repairs and spa treatment. She isn’t traumatized; she’s more aggravated than anything. But I’m reminding her (and myself) how grateful we are that this is the worst “crisis” we have. There will always be outliers, but I’ll tell you the same thing I’ve told Hyacinth, I’ve never seen this amount of unity in my 23 years here and I truly believe our Golden Age is upon us.
P.S. If you haven’t walked the trail yet and would like to, maps are available at our office at the Brooksville Welcome Center, 205 E Fort Dade Avenue. Or for an audio tour experience, use our Distrix app! Hyacinth apologizes for her absence but plans to be back in place next week.