OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County commissioners expressed their continued support Thursday for the Bass Pro project at the Okee-Tantie Recreation Area.
Bass Pro has asked for extra four months in addition to the most recent extension the county already approved. Due to the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, at their May 14 meeting the commissioners agreed to extend the extension.
“I want to see this happen,” said Commissioner Byant Culpepper. “There is nothing I would rather see than for this thing to play out and for Bass Pro to get in here and do this, but how long is this going to go on and on and on?” He suggested the county could get someone else into the park to run it for the county.
“I still lean heavily toward this being in private hands,” said Commissioner Brad Goodbread. “Government isn’t really good in the hospitality business. That needs to be in the hands in the hospitality business who knows how to market this.”
He said the delays in finalizing the Bass Pro plans hinge on waiting for permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “I don’t think anybody knew what it was going to take to get all of these permits done,” he said.
“I think we need to be a little understanding to what they are going through,” he added. “As long as we keep seeing forward progress, I am all for sticking with them.”
“If we brought someone else here, it would still have to go through the same permit process,” said Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs. He said Bass Pro representatives were at the county’s first meeting in March, and things started shutting down mid-March. He said Bass Pro has to wait for approvals from South Florida Water Management District and the corps. “They are not going to get anything done,” he continued. SFWMD is doing things remotely, he added. “We know the corps is doing things remotely.
“I am going to stick with them,” said Chairman Burroughs. “They have got $400,000 of their money invested. I am going to suggest we give them this extension.”
“They need to be at the first meeting in September,” he said. “By then they should be a lot further along in their plans if they can get the Army Corps to move any faster.”