MOORE HAVEN — The scenic overlook tower being built at Harney Pond recreation area in Lakeport, a good viewpoint for wide vistas of Lake Okeechobee, will bear the name of bass-fishing icon Sam Griffin.
County Manager Bob Jones said the Board of County Commissioners should designate an official name so that signage for nearby Florida and U.S. highways can be put up quickly.
“The progression of the tower is moving along quite well,” he told the commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 8. “They are estimating now completion in middle to the end of January. I talked to FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) the other day about signs. I assume we’re going to want signs on State Road 78 and U.S. 27, and we’ve got to get permission from FDOT to do all that, so I think we officially need to have a name so I can work with them on the signs.”
Commissioner John Ahern told a little of the history about the tower. “Back when we started talking about this ... we said if we did build a tower there, it was in conjunction with when Sam Griffin was inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame ... we’d name it after him, for everything he’d done for Lake Okeechobee over his 80-plus years.”
Ahern noted others have done much work in and for the park, too. “(Public Works Director) Archie (Branch) has done a lot about getting it done and seeing it through, but I think we ought to name it after him (Griffin),” he said, proposing the name, “Sam Griffin Lake Okeechobee Scenic Overlook Tower.”
“For the people who want to see Lake O, it will be tremendous,” he stated, noting area businesses should benefit.
Jones said as soon as they could get it to FDOT, “the sooner we can get the sign made.” He said they needed simply a name for the brown parks and recreation signs FDOT uses.
Tracy Whirls, director of the Glades County Economic Development Council and acting tourism development chief, noted that a suggestion made in 2006 to put a kiosk in at the tower and for a scenic trail might be eligible for state tourism grants. Her suggestion was to stick with “Sam Griffin Tower on Lake Okeechobee” for a kiosk and to include a little bit of history of Griffin’s influence on a plaque.
Whirls said the Tourism Development Council would look into the possibilities further since their guiding legislation and local ordinance now provide for spending on signage. She said they could put the kiosk on site at the foot of the tower, temporarily rent a billboard to advertise upon its grand opening and utilize other advertising to market it later.
Board Chairman Tim Stanley asked about power at the tower (the facility will have it), and Commissioner Donna Storter Long asked about the parking situation at the end of the park, where the tower is being built, and in the linear park along the Harney Pond Canal.
Ahern suggested they “might need a vendor with golf carts in February to let people get there. With the number of people there in February and March, there are sometimes problems finding places to park,” he said.