Tourism takes hit from Lake Okeechobee releases

Posted at 6:59 PM, Feb 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-01 07:20:16-05
Brown murky water hitting the shore of Southwest Florida's beaches is not the image most tourist expect while on vacation. 
"It was this gross, like brown-yellowish color," said Tami Zuck, visiting from Chicago. "It smelled really gross, I don't know what that was all about," said Zuck.
Since November, billions of gallons of unfiltered fresh water released from Lake Okeechobee has been changing the chemical and physical makeup of Southwest Florida's once pristine shorelines. 
But now the tainted water is casting a shadow over regions biggest money maker. 
"Many of them say they're concerned about the experience the tourists are having while they're down here," said  Brian Hamman, Lee County Commissioner, District 4. 
Hamman tells Fox 4 that local businesses are already feeling the financial impact from the deteriorating water quality.  "They're noticing the color of the water is different and some of them are talking about whether or not they may visit our area again," said Hamman. 
In an effort to get visitors back to the shores of Southwest Florida, Lee County commissioners are considering a plan to use $125,000 of hotel sales taxes to launch a digital marketing campaign. 
"I think it's really important the county commission takes action now to try and promote our area to tourist around the world to let them know this is a great place," said Hamman. 
While the marketing campaign is the first step in rebuilding the image of our local beaches, Hamman admits more trouble is on the horizon if a permanent solution to the Lake O' releases isn't found.
Visitors like Zuck agree.  "People that I normally come down here with would have been really grossed out, and they wouldn't want to stay there I know that," said Zuck.