Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Blue Springs feted as state’s 175th park
State officials will gather public input on what sorts of amenities people would like to see at the park near High Springs.
When Noah Valenstein was a child growing up in Gainesville, a favorite summer spot was Blue Springs in Gilchrist County where, his mother often said, the water was 67 degrees.
She may have been off by a few degrees — most springs in the region are 72 degrees — but the fun Valenstein had in the chilly water on those hot days made an impression.
On Friday Valenstein visited the spring again, this time as secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to officially christen Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park. The state bought the property last year from the Davis family, represented by siblings Kimberly Davis and Matt Barr, and it became Florida’s 175th state park.
“This property, thanks to the Davises, has been enjoyed and is part of the heritage of North Florida,” Valenstein said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I remember…how refreshing it would be in the summer and how we enjoyed it as a spot to come together with the community.”
The state in June bought the 407-acre property off County Road 340 near High Springs for $5.2 million. The acquisition staved off activities that could degrade the springs’ water quality and the Santa Fe River had the park been bought by a private owner.
Blue Springs is between Alachua County’s Poe Springs Park and the private Ginnie Springs complex.
Some of the initial projects planned for Blue Springs have been put on hold while damage caused by Hurricane Irma, including destruction of part of the boardwalk that leads along the spring to the Santa Fe River, is repaired.
Parks Bureau Chief Clif Maxwell said a structural engineer was called in to make sure the facilities are safe. The next step is to get ideas from the public on what the park should offer.
“We are going to be focused on protection of the resource, on ensuring access to everyone,” he said. “Obviously one of our highest priorities from a management standpoint is developing appropriate erosion control measures.”
The campground has been reopened with some changes, including a few campsites a bit farther from the spring to give a bit more privacy.