There are several possible answers to the question, all depending on how we approach the question.
Years ago, a member of city council suggested that it would be great if we had lots of antique shops like Dade City. More recently, others have suggested we needs lots of little gift shops like Dunedin or Tarpon Springs. All three cities have some “hook” that brings folks in for a visit.
A quarter century ago, Dade City was in similar shape to that of New Port Richey today. A Main Street program was created and it worked aggressively to rebuild the downtown. Their mission accomplished, the Dade City Main Street organization closed their doors last year. A downtown merchants’ association continues to help the thriving local businesses in downtown Dade City.
Dunedin has the Scottish / Celtic tradition of its founders as a hook. They have a Celtic festival each year. They don’t try to hold it downtown, but rather in a nearby park and they have free trolley service between the downtown and the festival site. More recently, Dunedin found itself smack in the middle of the Pinellas Trail and numerous businesses downtown cater to the visitors who are attracted by the Pinellas Trail.
Tarpon Springs uses its Greek heritage as its hook. A walk down the waterfront in Tarpon will give you a one of a kind experience.
With all due respect to Dade City, Dunedin, and Tarpon Springs; we are our own city. I’d like to suggest that we need to play to our own strengths, not those of somewhere else. What are those strengths? I can think of several, but perhaps the biggest one is both the most obvious and the most overlooked: The Pithlachascotee River.
The Cotee River, as it is better known, meanders from the southeast corner of the city to the northwest corner of the city. Pasco County’s redevelopment plan identifies New Port Richey as part of “The Harbors” area and mentions the Cotee River as a possible venue for a water taxi connecting downtown New Port Richey to the waterfront area of Port Richey. That is fine, as far as it goes, but it misses what I believe to be the best parts of the river.
The section of the river between the Main Street bridge in downtown New Port Richey and the US 19 bridge at the border of the Port Richey waterfront has some very picturesque homes and quite a bit of history. This is the section of the river that the Miss Daisy tour boat currently plies and that is identified as where a regular water taxi might run.
This section of the river also has quite a bit of boat traffic as boaters launch from the Main Street boat ramp and head out toward the gulf. This traffic will only increase if Port Richey follows through on a proposal to start charging launch / parking fees at their Nicks Park boat ramp. The closer you get to the US 19 bridge, the less protected the river is from wind and you have to stay in a marked channel as you get near the US 19 bridge in order to avoid the shoals.
The river narrows upstream from Sims Park and the Main Street bridge and the character of the river changes dramatically. There isn’t nearly as much motorboat traffic and the river is largely protected from the wind. You continue to see beautiful waterfront homes all the way to the Frances Avenue Park. Halfway between Sims Park and the Frances Avenue Park, you pass under the Grand Blvd Bridge. This bridge is low enough to limit the size of boats continuing upstream.
Immediately upstream from the Frances Avenue Park, you encounter a very wide, but tranquil area and then enter the much narrower wilderness of the Grey Preserve. The picture at the top of this post was taken from the Frances Avenue Park.
Dade City doesn’t have a river. Neither does Dunedin. Tarpon’s Anclote River is heavily commercial as it goes through Tarpon Springs. I believe the Cotee River is something we should be considering as we try to define what makes New Port Richey unique.
Taking a line from George Bernard Shaw, “Some look at things that are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”, I’d like to propose my own set of “why not?” questions:
- Why not open the river parks to commercial outfitters who can offer a variety of river experiences to both visitors and residents of New Port Richey?
- Why not go out and actively recruit outfitters to lease space and docks in the parks?
- Why not expand the dock space in the river parks?
- Why not designate a portion of the new docks in Sims Park for the use of private boaters who want to park their boats there while they come downtown for lunch or dinner?
A lot of this is actually in progress. The city is actively recruiting commercial outfitters and new docks are in the city capital improvement program budget that we will be discussing at this coming Tuesday night’s city council work session.
I believe the day is coming when New Port Richey will be known for its wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities, especially those involving the Cotee River.
The idea of a white water center was floated around a couple of months ago. The idea isn’t as crazy as it might sound and I’ve actually got a perfect spot in mind for it. Will something like this ever happen in New Port Richey? I don’t know, but it is definitely worth thinking big and kicking the idea around some more.
In the mean time, we should concentrate on some of the things we could do today or someday soon:
Would you rent a peddle boat for half an hour at a time and take your kids or grand kids out for an adventure on the river, followed up by an ice cream cone in the park?
How many of you have actually been to the Grey Preserve? This 80 acre park is a hidden gem that most people have never visited. We are looking at how to make it easier to get to, including paving Plathe Road west of Rowan and possibly adding a new park entrance on the west side of the preserve.
Look at the river from the Grand Blvd Park (right at the Grand Blvd Bridge) and from the Frances Avenue Park and think about the fun you could have out on that part of the river if we had the right companies involved to help get you out on the water.
I’d love to hear your thoughts after you spend some time checking out the Cotee River.
In the coming weeks, we will delve into the questions of what sort of business we ought to be trying to recruit to New Port Richey and how we might best go about recruiting them. We’ll also look at the things we’ve been doing and why they haven’t worked.
It is past time for us to keep asking “Why?”… It is time for all of us to start asking “Why not?”
Rob Marlowe, Mayor
City of New Port Richey