Here is my promised follow up my post regarding the Mount Dora Seaplane Splash-in.
When the City of Tavares, Florida, population 13,000, announced a few years ago that they would be using a government grant to redevelop their downtown Lake Dora waterfront with a “green” seaplane base and boat marina, the arm-chair critics came out in full force. At the time of the announcement, there was a lot of negativity about the project, and ignorance about its potential economic benefit to the community. Even the City Manager of Mount Dora voiced his concerns about a potential seaplane base over 5 miles away.
Here are a few of the comments from some of the trolls readers of the Orlando Sentinel, after the seaplane base was announced a couple of years ago. Uncorrected for grammar and spelling, of course!
“One of the best fishing lakes to fish in the area and now you will have to watch out for some cracy nut trying to land a plane , how many accidents or near accidents are there going to be.”
“Why not have a landing strip where the fishing is not as popular.”
“Are you serious, Im sorry that me and 99.9 percent of Lake county dont have the means to own a seaplane. I guess you are one of the lucky ones, But you are not going to effect the economy in Tavares. This will be a wasted venture for Tavares”
“Seaplanes are annoying,loud,and pointless. The only One flying on a regular bases is on lake idamere. He flys all day with no purpose.”
Of course most people do not have the discretionary income to afford a seaplane. But isn’t that the point? Local governments desire to attract affluent demographics to their downtown districts to support local businesses and restaurants. Perhaps these folks are suggesting that the city attract only “poor” tourists, who have no money to spend.
By their convoluted logic, cities should also discourage “Bike Fests” or Antique Boat Shows because the majority of residents cannot afford a $20,000 Harley, or a restored $100,000 Chris-Craft vintage boat. Never mind the fact that these tourists spend lots of money employing local residents and contributing to the tax base.
As for potential boat/aircraft conflicts, some fishermen apparently believe that they own the entire lake’s surface, over 15 square miles in size. Hopefully these people will learn to read a marine navigational chart and avoid a small landing area of roughly 3000 feet in length by 100 feet in width, and stay clear of the seaplanes.
Xenophobia is alive and well in Lake County, Florida it would appear.
Early last year Tavares finally opened the Tavares Seaplane Base, designated FA1, to large crowds. Since opening, the Tavares SPB has been an unmitigated success. In the first year, over 7,200 take-offs and landings were recorded at FA1. In a short period of time, 29 new businesses have opened in downtown, including Al’s Landing Restaurant, one of our favorites. These new businesses increased the city’s commercial tax base significantly. As opposed to the City of Mount Dora who continues to see small businesses close and storefronts remain vacant.
Well, apparently Mount Dora has finally seen the light and decided to join Tavares in the 21st century by officially welcoming seaplanes to that city’s lakeshore. Better late than never I suppose. In conjunction with the historic Lakeside Inn, the 1st Annual Seaplane Splash-in was held this past weekend. Since I live near there, I went down took a few pictures of the event.
In addition to the splash-in, a new seaplane tour operator has opened up at the Lakeside Inn. Lake Country Air Service has set up shop down on the Inn’s docks, giving seaplane rides to hotel guests and local tourists. Commercial pilot John Justad flies a beautifully restored 1957 DeHavilland Beaver, powered by a throaty Pratt and Whitney radial engine. The Beaver is a prior military veteran that was sold as excess, and then converted to civilian use.
To set up a seaplane tour, John can be reached at 218-682-2006 or www.LakeCountryAirService.com.
The Seaplane Pilots Association of Florida has identified at least 150 lakefront restaurants within 100 miles of Orlando. Mount Dora might as well get its share of this lucrative business and attract an affluent pilot market to its shores.
For too long Mount Dora has continued to base its economic future on a failed business model of busing in the blue-hairs to shop in the few remaining junk shops. It’s about time that the City decided think outside the box, and invigorate the downtown’s local economy. Congratulations, albeit belatedly.