A three-day holiday bash July 5-7 and national TV coverage of wakeboarding sports events could help put SunWest on the map, Commissioner Jack Mariano fervently believes.
"It's great to see families getting together," Mariano told people attending a West Pasco Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast last week.
He was referring to a highly successful event at SunWest during Memorial Day weekend in May, when hundreds of people flocked to the former limestone mining site.
Mariano thinks the long Independence Day holiday should bring even more visitors to SunWest this weekend.
In addition, NBC plans coverage of the Red Bull Signature Series wakeboarding events in the Tampa Bay area on Saturday, July 6, to be shown here 4-6 p.m. on News Channel 8.
Pasco County has hired a consultant to redesign the plan for a county park at SunWest. A larger, 60-acre lake would face a "perfect sunset," Mariano said.
The county already has socked away about $3.5 million to build park facilities, most of it from developers. Pasco also stands to get a share of BP oil spill settlement money.
Mariano wants the park to open by spring 2014.
The true purpose of tourist development is economic development, Mariano said.
"We're going to get international exposure," Mariano said about wakeboarding on the local lake. Cable water skiing could become the big draw, the commissioner thinks.
Commissioners also decided to appeal denial of a permit to dredge the channel that would provide boats better access to the gulf. Construction of the redesigned park can proceed without the dredging project in the meantime.
Mariano envisions a future in which Pasco becomes a tourist destination, rather than residents here taking visitors to Pinellas County.
King Helie, a Hudson-area planning firm owner, had a "brilliant idea," Mariano said. With access from Suncoast Parkway, tourists could make one left turn off the toll road and travel local roads all the way to the park entrance - without a single traffic signal the entire route.
The gates will open at noon Friday, July 5, at SunWest Harbourtowne for the three-day event. Festivities will continue 9 a.m. Saturday, with fireworks planned at 9 p.m. The Sunday schedule will start at 10 a.m.
The cost will be $20 per vehicle per day. Spectators must sign a liability waiver at the entrance and wear a wristband.
For rules and other information, check the SunWest Harbourtowne Facebook page.
Mariano advises drivers to take U.S. 19 to Aripeka Road, go about a mile on Aripeka, turn left onto Old Dixie Highway and go about 200 yards to turn right at the gate.