By Shelley Costello
Reprint from Apopka My Town Magazine
The Perfect Afternoon.
It was the perfect day, the middle of January, the sun warming our faces, a brisk chilly breeze fills the air, yes it was the perfect afternoon. For a short time we pretended that we were far away from the busy hectic rush of the rest of the world. We drifted along the peaceful current of the Wekiva River, occasionally putting our paddle into the water to send us in the right direction. We stopped; I said, “Listen to that.” Patrick said in a hush, “What?” I smiled and said, “Nothing, its nothing. It is the sound of quiet and absolute nothing.”
It all started at King's Landing where we launched our canoe and paddled to the Wekiva River. Bob Loomis invited us out to test the landing. Actually to see the great work that is going on out there.
We stopped on a sandbar, rolled up our jeans, took off our shoes, and waded in the chilly, crystal clear water. We were excited about the moment as the cold water splashed on us. We laughed and frolicked for a few moments, then we paused to take photos of the 4 Loomis boys who will grow up here running the family business. As I watched the boys, memories of my adolescent years on the river came rushing back. Mark, Jimmy, Steven, and Trevor gave us a spectacular show as they took turns climbing a tree high into the air, then catching the large swinging rope that was thrown to them. “Ready?” the Loomis Boys said just before I was to snap the camera. All at once they would push off of a perch they were standing on and swing out far over the river waters beneath them, and let go. Just as they splashed into the cold water I took the photo.
I can remember King's Landing, Rock Springs and Wekiva Springs Park & Marina were spots for youth to go. We would go to Rock Springs and rent tubes and tube down the current of the river. It was usually a long hot exhausting day, but we were adventurous and resilient. We would go to King's Landing with our church youth group for a day outing. Yes, King's Landing was the place to go. There are a lot of people who have grown up in this area and have fond memories of the Wekiva River. Those who live in Apopka and Northwest Orange County have a lot to be proud of and thankful for. Not everyone is like minded when it comes to natural resources, ecology and the environment. While we all want to do our part in preservation, doing our part might not always be enough to guard against losing one of our most valuable resources. This favorite spot to many is getting a new look. King's Landing is being cleaned up, and will soon become a favorite place to go when the family is looking for a day outing.
History of the Landing.
For decades Apopka has been known for the Wekiva River, Kings Landing, the Wekiva Marina and Rock Springs Park. We are fortunate to have these play areas that make up the river system that flows throughout our area. The King's Landing canoe rental post property has been privately owned all these years by Gabby Gardner and her partner, Ted Kirkland. Gabby and Ted operated the Kings Landing canoe rental business catering to outdoor enthusiasts both locally and to those traveling to canoe this popular paddle run.
This paddle run has been rated number one in Central Florida. Many paddle tour groups and kayakers from all over come here to enjoy the paddle and canoe trail. Being an avid kayaker and enjoying paddlenews.net, and also belonging to the Wilderness Trekkers group, I have become aware of the popularity of this spot.
During the devastation of the 2004-2005 hurricanes, this property and the river passages were damaged and left full of debris, making the river virtually impassable by canoes and kayaks. As new owners Bob and Steven Loomis said, only an experienced kayaker could have gotten through. As a result the property sat for a long time with King's Landing closed for business. The entire landing hare has been full of trees and debris.
This popular canoe and kayak access and launch area to the Wekiva River was no more. The damage was far too much for the owners to restore. Apopka could have lost this to developers, most of us would not want to see the only accessible entrance to the Wekiva River blocked by an iron gate that requires visitors to know a secret code so they could enter a high rise condominium building lining the banks of the beautiful Wekiva River.
Salvation of the Landing.
As I write these words, I am certain that I share the heartbeat of Bob and Steve Loomis, the new owners of King's Landing. If they could speak to those around Apopka and in Northwest Orange County, they would say, “Help us clean up, restore and preserve this access to this river for the public. “That is exactly the motive behind their recent purchase of this valuable place. Bob and Steven are really passionate about their motives. They really want people to know that they have no other goal in mind except to protect and preserve King's Landing canoe and kayak launching area that runs to Rock Springs Run and the Wekiva Marina.
In the past, Kings Landing may not have had the best care and management, but Steven and Bob are very strong about this being a family place. This will be a place that will be free of alcohol, so that people, companies, groups and basically everyone can come here to canoe, fish, swim, picnic, swing from tree ropes and enjoy the otters, black bear and other Florida wildlife that inhabit the Wekiva riverbanks, including the black bear that roam here.
Visitors have basically two options: One is to rent canoes and make the trip to the Wekiva Marina, an 8-mile paddle of 3 1/2 to 4 hours. They can arrange ahead of time for a shuttle to bring them back to the place of origin. Or, if they prefer, visitors can take their canoes out a few miles to swim, fish, picnic on the riverbanks, and then return.
Now, the cleanup at Kings Landing is complete. The canoes are all restored and waiting. You can bring the kids, too. there are canoes with Care Bears, Star Wars, ET and many other characters painted on them. This place is also one of the best fishing spots.
Since the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes, this portion of the river has been inaccessible, so the waters are not fished out. It is almost a “guaranteed catch,” according to Bob Loomis. Bob is adamant about having visitors stick to the rules. “We will be very strict with our rules, such as catch and release only and no Styrofoam coolers.”
Bob Loomis has 2 sons, Jimmy, 13, and Mark, 10. Both are in the Boy Scout Troop 211 in Apopka. Steven Loomis also has two suns, Steven, 10, and Trevor, 6. “This was purchased for our sons,” Bob said. We want to give this to them to one day run and own, right now, the boys love the river life.” The boys go out early on their weekends and start fishing and swimming,” Steven Loomis said. “The problem is finding them for lunch.”