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Nature Coast Thanks-giving

By Diane Bedard Posted on November 27, 2019

It is good to sit down and write about what makes life so worth living regularly. This time of year, I tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of gifts, meals, relatives, and pets. This year, I just moved into a new home and am spending a lot of time figuring out what goes where and how to best manage the new environment.

In Florida’s Nature Coast, I find a daily sense of thanks for the slower pace of life and general consideration of a door opened for me, a small shop or restaurant owner greeting me when I visit, a cart shared at the grocery store, a smile from another motorist at the stop sign, and the beauty of nature that surrounds us.

I will never forget moving to Brooksville in 2005 and shopping at the local Publix store with my husband one Sunday. We had moved up from the St. Petersburg area the week before. Everything seemed to be on 2/3 time.

We felt like everyone should move a little faster, but then we looked at each other and said, “Guess we better get used to Brooksville time,” and we have never looked back.

The Nature Coast is full of people and organizations who help each other.

The Opportunity to Help a Neighbor

The area encompassing Florida’s Nature Coast includes Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, and several Florida Counties north along the Gulf of Mexico until about Tallahassee. The Nature Coast that we cover includes several small towns or cities – each with a real sense of community.

Events held in this area nearly always benefit a local nonprofit. We have Arts Councils, Heritage/History Councils, as well as agencies that provide help for the mentally disabled, the physically disabled and the youth and the seniors. If someone’s house burns down, the neighbors step up and hold fundraisers and businesses donate also.

papa joes
After Papa Joe’s Restaurant caught fire and was destroyed in 2014, a huge community effort for employee relief was undertaken. Image courtesy of Papa Joe’s Employee Relief.

I remember when Papa Joe’s restaurant in Spring Lake burned down. Joe Giarratana, the owner of the business, contacted local restaurants to get positions for his employees until they could rebuild. Fundraisers were held to help the employees and their families. It was over a year before the new restaurant was back in business, even with insurance funds to reconstruct. Many of the former employees were able to return in due time.

At the time of the stock market crash, Raymond and Margaret Robins gave their fortune to back the Bank of Brooksville, preventing a horrible economic crash for the area’s families and businesses. They owned Chinsegut Hill at the time.

The Opportunity to Be Helped

Rachel, our little white dog who decided to go on an adventure and was returned home. Image by Diane Bedard

Last week, my little white dog decided to stand out on the road in front of our new house. We were having some work done by heavy equipment and I can only surmise that she didn’t like the ruckus. A good Samaritan came along and picked her up, thinking she was lost.

After I realized she wasn’t home, I began searching and could not find her anywhere. I resorted to posting on all the Facebook Lost Pet/Found Pet groups I could find – until about 1 am when I collapsed.

About 4 am I woke up and looked at my posts. Someone had posted a Found Dog in a different group and it was my little white dog! I immediately messaged them, eventually showing up at their gate around 8 am, hoping to see my fur baby and carrying a note.

I called her name and up she ran, jumped in the truck and came home with me. I cannot thank the many people who were involved in taking care of my pet and helping me get her back safely enough. It is, however, part of the culture of Florida’s Nature Coast and I am so grateful to live here.

Guy Harvey, artist, and Wyland, artist, in front of the 55 x 8-foot mural, entitled, “Marine Sanctuary.” Image courtesy of the Wyland Foundation

The Quality of Arts and Education

Community theatre, middle and high school music and band programs, sports at all levels, and the value of art in developing our youth into well-rounded adults is part of this area’s culture. It’s not perfect, but it has passion, and that’s what makes the difference between good and great in these areas.

Live Oak Theatre’s Wizard of Oz production was of professional quality in costuming, acting and sets. Volunteers and students work together to create family-friendly shows twice a year, with summer camp as a time to hone their craft. Image courtesy of Live Oak Theatre.

Gardening, forestry, wildlife management are all valued pursuits in this area. Fishing is taught from parent to child and people make a life by pursuing their dreams.

Where else in the world can you list, “Manatee Encounter Captain” as your occupation?

Art in the Park features over 130 Fine Arts and Artists each year along the paved winding walkway of Tom Varn Park in Brooksville. Proceeds benefit the Hernando County Fine Arts Council who award grants to several groups to support the arts.

Arts festivals happen throughout the region and throughout the year, as well as art galleries that teach classes to the young, middle and aged populations.

Tim Durden, in his usual low-key manner, on his kayak as a volunteer with manatee watch. Tim is credited with saving a young swimmer’s life in 2015 and was honored with the Citizen Award for Bravery by the U.S. Department of the Interior July 4, 2017.

Sports are strong and varied in our region also. Everything from a wakeboarding park and one of the most pristine kayaking rivers in the State to a huge ice arena, tennis and golf academy, and an international soccer school. And let us not forget our middle and high school baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, and football teams. These institutions provide good direction and opportunities to strive to be the best in the world.

driving a horse
Today the Withlacoochee State Forest offers outdoor recreation for visitors. Image courtesy of Pat Manfredo.

The Serenity of Nature

The Withlacoochee State Forest, Warner-Boyce Salt Springs, Chassahaowitzka Wildlife Management Area, Chinsegut Wildlife Education Area, Starkey Park, the Withlacoochee State Trail, Crystal River State Preserve, the Green Swamp and the myriad of state and local parks are abundant throughout Florida’s Nature Coast.

Some parks are dog-friendly. Some are not. Some offer events, some just offer the opportunity to get away from our fellow man and commune with the local flora and fauna.

With both water and forest nature throughout our area, one can enjoy the serenity of rivers, lakes, the Gulf Monday, and hike to find caves the next day.

Some have beautiful shorelines, some have heavy tree canopies, one is a wonderful animal park, one is home to mermaids and mermen.

Just being able to drive roads with trees on both sides and a deer crossing or bear crossing sign is something I am grateful for.

Mostly, I am grateful for you, my fellow NatureCoasters. Please post your favorite things about this area in the comments below. Perhaps we can arrange a future field trip to meet up and enjoy.


Robin Draper says

You’re such a beautiful soul. ❤️


John Hart says

My late wife wore them, But the main,real reason 't' day was allways Thursday 1.Thursday FOOTBALL 2. Friday FOOTBALL
3. Saturday FOOTBALL and last yup guess?


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