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Company shelves park plan

A company official says a weak economy was the main obstacle in the way of a water park near Lake Rousseau.

By ALEX LEARY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 27, 2002


INGLIS -- Blaming a weak economy for investor shyness, the company behind a $100-million proposal to create a white-water kayak park near Lake Rousseau is no longer actively pursuing the idea.

Rapid Pursuits Inc. was trying to raise $10-million by July with the expectation the state would provide a formal lease for 500 acres along the Cross Florida Barge Canal.

"Investors all say the same thing: "The economy stinks,' " president Steve Rich said. Tampa's failed bid for the 2012 Olympics did not help, he acknowledged.

The park, which promised a staggering 1-million visitors each year, was warmly greeted by local officials but opposed by Levy County residents worried their community would be trampled by mass tourism.

While financing never rolled in by July, an extension was given. Months later, the idea has still failed to attract serious interest, and now the state Office of Greenways and Trails will ask the Cabinet to deny the project.

"What we hope to do is issue an invitation for other interested parties to apply" for the lease, greenways director Jena Brooks said.

Rapid Pursuits would not be barred from approaching the state again; Rich said while the plan is "treading water," he is not ready to totally quit.

Brooks said the project turned out far more complicated than Rapid Pursuits, based in Casselberry, had anticipated.

But she maintains the idea has merit. "'We're still positive about it," she said.

Rapid Pursuits proposed a 2,500-foot kayak run to be used for professional competition and a 2.5-mile course for recreational use, including canoeing.

"This thing sounds too good to be true," Sam Lyons, then chairman of the Citrus County Eco-Tourism Committee, said at the time.

But Lyons said it was soon apparent Rapid Pursuits had significant hurdles to overcome. "The money was a big factor, there was opposition from local folks . . . there were just so many factors working against them," he said Friday.

-- Staff writer Alex Leary can be reached at (352) 564-3623 or leary@sptimes.com.

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