Weeki Wachee Springs Bans Fallen Deputy’s Sister from Park – Lifetime Passes Revoked
WEEKI WACHEE – Most of us remember that fateful day, July 3rd 2011, when Hernando County Sheriff’s Deputy John Mecklenburg lost his life, pursuing a suspect on U.S Hwy 41.
John’s death shook the entire community and broke the hearts of his family, friends, and even those who didn’t know him at all.
Several businesses came out in support of John’s family, including officials with Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, who provided lifetime passes to the surviving members of John’s family – or so they thought.
John’s sister, Stacy Mecklenburg, posted the following comment on her Facebook page yesterday, that has the community up in arms:
On July 3, 2011, my brother Deputy John Mecklenburg died in the line of duty. Weeki Wachee State Park offered us what we were led to believe were lifetime passes to the park to honor my brother. There were no expiration dates on our passes, and we have enjoyed the park only a few times in the past three and a half years. Today I dropped two kids off to the park, but they came to the fence to tell me that their passes had been confiscated. I went up to the gate to find out why, and was met with a bad attitude from the ticket taker, who called the manager for me. When the assistant manager, Robyn Anderson came over to talk to me, her lack of public relation skills left me shaking and horrified. She humiliated me in front of a large crowd of people, and when I tried to tell her that the way she was treating me was horrible, it only got worse. She said I could, “either let the kids stay here for the day, or take my cranky a** out of here.” She tried to explain to me that even though we were told that they were lifetime passes, they weren’t, and they just expire whenever the park decides they do…like when we show up out of the blue to use them. Of course I took the kids home with me. Not only did she completely humiliate me in front of the crowd of people, she had the audacity to send a uniformed officer to my home to tell me if I ever go to Buccaneer Bay again, I will be arrested for trespassing. Wow. This is how we are treated for using the “gift” we were given. Had there been an expiration date on that gift, I could have saved myself much humiliation and sadness. The way I was treated by Robyn Anderson upset me so much that it brought back all of the pain and heartache from the death. She should be ashamed of herself. Only in Hernando County do you receive a gift, only to have it taken from you, along with your dignity. Luckily for me, even without having to worry about trespassing, I wouldn’t want to step foot on that park’s property again. My brother is still dead, but the kindness they tried to extend to us has obviously expired.
We spoke to Stacy this morning, who said at no time was she told the passes had an expiration date and that she had been visiting the park with her children for the last three years, without issue. “I cried all the way home” said Stacy “I still grieve every day and this incident just broke my heart.”
We spoke to John Athanason, the parks Public Relations Manager, who said he was unable to comment on the specifics of the incident, but he did say that the passes were not considered to be life-time for extended family. Only John Mecklenburg’s wife, children, and mother were provided lifetime passes and all others were just annual passes, according to Athanason.
I asked John how Stacy had access to the park over the last three years, but he wasn’t able to explain, and only stated “It must have slipped through the cracks.”
Athanason referred me to the Steve Klapka with the Florida Fraternal Order of Police (FOP); Athanason says they are the ones who provided the passes.
We tried to reach Klapka by phone, but have not received a call back at this time. If Klapka returns our call, we will update the article to reflect his comments.
RNRF has requested a copy of the trespass warning issued to Stacy Mecklenburg and we will bring you the details of that report once it is acquired.
UPDATE: We spoke to FOP President Steve Klapka by phone, who said the lifetime passes were provided by the FOP to immediate family only. That includes Penny Mecklenburg, her children, and Judy and Chuck Mecklenburg, John’s parents.
According to Klapka, Park Manager Robyn Anderson accused Stacy Mecklenburg of being belligerent and causing a disturbance in front of guests.
We received a copy of the trespass complaint from the Sheriff’s Office that shows a transcript of the 911 call from Robyn Anderson. According the transcript, “The female was 10-8 (Upset) and yelling and cursing at her because she would not let her in on a pass that was given to her 3 years ago.”
I asked Klapka if Weeki Wachee Springs or the FOP would be offering anything to Stacy Mecklenburg, as a way to remedy the situation, he said “It’s probably too soon to address that option.”
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