The good news about the good possibility that the State of Florida will buy Gilchrist Blue Springs and make it a state park has appeared again in the Gainesville Sun. OSFR’s letter and posts were cited in the article, as well as our description. Things are hopeful, as ARC Director Hank Vinson told OSFR last week that the Council had received a great deal of support for the purchase.
State will consider buying Blue Springs for state park
On June 19, the state’s Acquisition and Restoration Council will decide whether to add the 405-acre property along the Santa Fe River in Gilchrist County to the list of first magnitude springs that the state is seeking to buy through the Florida Forever conservation program.
Owned and operated by the same family since 1958, Blue Springs Park has been on the market since 2013.
Former longtime Suwannee River Water Management District conservation program head Charles Houder is the real estate agent working with sibling owners Kimberly David and Matt Barr. Houder approached the state about adding the park to its acquisition list.
“A lot of the public around Gainesville and certainly the owners would like to see it as a state park,” Houder said. “To me, this is an outstanding opportunity to get one of the best springs still in private ownership.”
The environmental group Our Santa Fe River has started email and letter writing campaigns urging the state to buy the property.
A form letter the group is circulating points to the wildlife on site, including a variety of turtles and snails, the opportunity to protect the springs and 400 acres along the Santa Fe River from development and the fact that campsites, parking and other infrastructure for a park are already in place.
“Your council will soon meet to determine the fate of one of Florida’s finest remaining natural resources and a prime example of what our state can boast as a unique treasure. Gilchrist Blue Springs seems made to order for what the people of Florida had in mind when they voted in Amendment 1,” the letter said in reference to the land conservation constitutional amendment that voters overwhelmingly approved in November.
As it stands, Amendment 1 will set aside more than $700 million next budget year, and lawmakers plan to put only a small fraction of that total — the Senate plan is $57 million and the House plan is $26.8 million — toward conservation land purchases.
The uncertainty over conservation spending is just one complication for the potential acquisition. Houder said next Friday’s vote would just be the first step in a longer process. The land, which has a $1.36 million value on public property appraiser records, would still need a private valuation. The state and owners would have to negotiate a deal with the governor and Cabinet having the final vote on whether to buy. The initial asking price when the property went up for sale in 2013 was $10 million.
At this point, Houder said the owners want to sell but are neither under pressure or rushing to sell.
“They can be patient,” Houder said. “The park is actually doing very well.”
Blue Springs is a large second-magnitude spring, but there are other similar springs on the state’s priority purchase list of first-magnitude springs. Houder said they are eligible because they are part of larger spring or river systems.
A preliminary state staff analysis said the projected operating costs for the first year of state ownership is $300,000, while campsites and day use of the park could generate a combined $216,500.
In the analysis, staff also said the state could consider allowing cattle grazing or timber activities on part of the property to generate monies and could contract with a private company to manage the recreation activities at the park.
OSFR is grateful to Chrisopher Curry for writing this article and to the Gainesville Sun for allowing us to reprint in full this article. The original article can be read at this link.