“Every so often, someone in Old Homosassa asks Rodney MacRae how the park plans are going.

Still waiting on some things to happen, he says.

“The interest is still there,” he said of plans to buy and build a park along the Homosassa River. “It hasn’t waned.”

But even MacRae is discouraged by the lack of action on the part of the state government, and the strings it tied to a $850,000 grant that brings the project more than halfway there.

Halfway, though, isn’t close enough.

“It’s all screwed up,” said MacRae, whose last name is synonymous with the Old Homosassa heritage. “It’s quite the conundrum.”

What started with an abundance of hope in 2015 for a passive, working waterfront park in the heart of Old Homosassa is being choked by red tape that threatens to derail the entire project.

An Access to the Waterfront committee formed that year to look for park property. It settled on the 2.3 acres Buddy Locklar owned. The asking price is $1.4 million.

The county supported the idea, but never wanted to spend local tax dollars on it or own it. The county applied for and received an $850,000 state appropriation in 2017, and the Homosassa organization says it has a private donor prepared to provide the rest.

But there’s a hangup. A significant one.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the county must own the property to receive the $850,000.

The county doesn’t want to own it and, officials say, for good reason. If it’s in county ownership, it would have to bid out management of Shelly’s Seafood and Fish Market, potentially forcing the current owner out of business.

Plus, committee organizers say they are planning to use revenue from the fish market lease and commercial fishing dock to pay for improvements, such as a museum and kayak launch.

So the committee sent in its own grant request to DEP — $1.45 million, which would cover the entire sale and keep the county out of the sale.

DEP was expected to provide an answer by late July. Instead, the agency sent an email to County Administrator Randy Oliver saying not to expect a decision until November.

And that raises another problem. The deadline to have a contract to buy the property is Oct. 31 — or the $850,000 appropriation is returned to the state.

Oliver said there is another option. He said the county could use the money plus the anonymous donor’s, buy the property, and then ask the Legislature next year to relax the rules on the appropriation so that the county could sell it to the Homosassa group for a nominal fee.

“There’s no guarantee they would be OK with that,” he said.

Oliver said he plans to bring the matter to the county commission in September to seek direction on how to proceed.

Commission Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr. said he is disappointed state rules have complicated the matter.

“What should have been very easy to work out the state has made all these hoops to jump through,” Kitchen said. “I find it kind of discouraging. There was a lot of momentum for this to happen.”

MacRae isn’t giving up hope, though it’s difficult.

“We are really in a bit of a tangle,” he said. “I’m just bummed out about it. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.”