Columbia Co. BOCC determines rules for Rum Island Park today.

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Rum island 22 In: Columbia Co. BOCC determines rules for Rum Island Park today. | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

The county commissioners will decide the fate of Rum Island Park today at the regular meeting at 5:30 at the School Board Auditorium, 372 W. Duval St., Lake City.

The park, abandoned by the county for decades, is a controversial topic because the county now has invested money in it for renovation and wants to impose a strong set of rules which drastically change the customary usage by locals.

A workshop was promised for the public to contribute input but it never took place.  The park has been closed for nearly a year and will likely open in August.

The public may speak to the commissioners at the meeting today at 5:30.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
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– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum

Commission considers charging admission fees for Rum Island

Thursday, July 16, 2020

TONY BRITT [email protected]

County officials are considering charging admission and implementing several new fees and rules at Rum Island Park, when the park reopens in the coming weeks. “We’ve never charged admission into the park before, but the problem is it’s such a small park and it’s gotten so crowded, we’re going to charge admission into the park,” said Ben Scott, county manager, during a telephone interview last week.

Rum Island Park, located at the southern end of the county, offers access to the Santa Fe River and accommodates paddling (canoes or kayaks), swimming, picnicking and fishing. Scott said county officials are considering a plan that would allow Columbia County residents to purchase an annual pass to the park at a reduced price compared to an annual pass sold to out-of-county residents. Under the proposal, county residents could purchase an annual pass for $25 and an annual pass for out-of-county residents would cost $60. Senior citizens (over 65 years old) and veterans can apply for annual passes at no charge.

The county is also proposing a $5 per vehicle fee and the money would be placed in an “honor box” at the park and the temporary decal provided would have to be displayed in the vehicle’s windshield or the vehicle could be towed at the owner’s expense. Outfitters, anybody who has commercial activity in the park more than six times per year, can purchase a permit for $1,500 a year. The board also plans to review a proposal where 20-25 annual passes will be allocated to the Friends of Rum Island organization, a park support group, whose volunteers periodically clean and maintain areas of the park.

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County officials are expected to get more public input on the proposals and review other rules governing area parks and community centers during the 5:30 p.m. Columbia County Commission meeting today at the School Board Auditorium, 372 W. Duval St. County officials discussed the potential rules to govern Rum Island Park and the new fees last week during a workshop at the Fort White Community Center, where more than a dozen people either questioned initial fee amounts, the park’s hours and other parts of the initial proposal.

County officials are not expected to vote on or adopt the new fees and rules until the Board’s first meeting in August. “We’re also setting hours that the park will be opened and closed,” Scott said of the plan. The consensus that county officials reached during the workshop last week is that the park will be opened from sunrise to sunset. Scott said the proceeds collected from the proposed fees will be used to clean and maintain the park. Rum Island Park, which initially closed Sept. 9, 2019, for construction and renovation work, is tentatively scheduled to reopen sometime in August. “If we don’t get a bunch of rain, we’ll be open sometime in August,” said Scott, noting that the main holdup on the project has been weather related with all the rain the area has had.

Columbia County was the recipient of two grants that were funding the park’s facelift. One of the grants was from the Suwannee River Water Management District and the other grant was from 2019 legislative appropriations. Both grants were for $150,000 each.

The legislative appropriations funding was used to construct a permanent restroom facility at the park. The building was designed to have separate men’s and women’s restroom facilities, with two stalls on each side and the building’s plans said it would also have an entry sidewalk for park visitors. The building was designed so that during periods of high water events, the water could pass through the building. For years the park utilized Port-a-lets because there was no permanent restroom facility.

The other portion of grant funds were earmarked to address environmental issues, such as bank restoration, at the springs. “The restroom is complete,” Scott said during a telephone interview Friday. “I’m not sure if the bank erosion (work) is totally complete yet or not.” The funding from the SRWMD grant funded the park’s (river) bank restoration, as well as funded a portion of the drain field and septic tank work associated with adding a permanent restroom facility to the park. Scott, who has not seen the updated work at the park, said there have been complaints by people that the restrooms are too far away from the river in the park. “The restroom is about as close as we can set it, based on water management district rules,” he said.




  1. I don’t like the county preference. I live only 5m away but in Alachua county on the river. We use the park often, and often do river clean ups from the boat ramp. I haven’t seen anyone else pulling trash from the actual rum island. 🙁

  2. I think GZ has nailed it on the head. The water activity vendors profit, from Rum Island. They should have to pay a little extra to have this access for their business. Because the traffic they generate requires extra maintenance. This should not be pushed onto the Columbia County residences to pay for .
    I only know of One canoe rental, that is in Southern Columbia County that uses Rum Island.
    I think the fee amount that the, Out of County vendors are required to pay, should be higher than the local County vendor. Since a Columbia county vendor will already be paying taxes that benefit this County and the Spring. Our neighboring counties taxes do not benefit Columbia County
    and Rum Island.
    I feel that free admission or seasonal passes needs a closer look. Charging a small fee per car or seasonal pass is a good idea to help with maintenance and park preservation. The honor system will not work.

    BUT, when you start with a fee, this tends to open the “fee door”, and once its opened, its hard to close and is subject to abuse by the “fee setters” Who will be in charge of this ?

    Although, Gilchrist County has a new park at the 47 bridge. With No entry fees and the park is nicely done. Just food for though or water under the bridge !!

    We’ve lived in Columbia county for 40 yrs and have seen many changes to Rum Island. I hope this gets resolved soon.

  3. Im a Columbia county citizen and have lived most of my life here in Columbia county, feel that there should be more of a fee for the outside vendors other then just $1500 a year and help with the clean up not just say they will help as was done before, and they never did, they the vendors waited till volunteers did there job, the only clean up that was done was one time per year, by the vendors, as supported in years previously and then they stopped because no one enforced them to do such, instead your wanting the Columbia county residents to pay a fee for what, is the county going to hire someone to clean and maintain the park, is the county going to have security officers down there to patrol the ongoing of people who want to use the park, or is the park just going to get volunteers to clean the park and have the prisoners maintain the grounds, as done in other Columbia county parks. I feel that when the park was giving to the Columbia county back in 1965, and since then was over 50years ago was free to go to the park for recreational purposes should still be free for the Columbia county citizen, the money’s should only come from taxes that are already collected and outside vendors to clean and maintain the park! And it’s not only the vendors that use our park at rum island its naboring parks as well that need to keep our river clean, there was a statement of someone going from 47 to rum island and seen all the beer cans and trash in the river 90% is not from rum island, it’s from other private owned river attractions that have destroyed our river with beer cans and bottles, we should hole them accountable for there actions as well! Not just Columbia county citizen who want to use our rum island park, the main issue of overcrowded rum island is from the outside vendors for profit!

  4. I am a Columbia county resident, homeowner and taxpayer
    My experience with the state park honor system is that it works. They use a tag that hangs from the mirror. Of course, you can ignore the #5 fee and just park, but you risk a much more costly and inconvenient ticket and towing. Your choice.
    As far as counterfeiting the decal, well, if you get caught you are risking conviction of a crime, possibly a felony. To save $25? Again, your choice.
    I like the idea of a free pass, but, as a senior I don’t really need it. I believe in paying my own way. Good parks aren’t free.
    As a bank fisherman. I still want 1 hour before sunrise until 1 hour after sunset.

  5. Who is going to keep track of 6 visits by commercial tube/kayak companies? Another honor system like the drop box which my personal opinion will never work. Anyone with the smallest of computer savvy can enter the park one time get a decal and make them from their selves. Are you going to change decals daily? Who is going to oversee leaving hours……a honor system? Same deal at our park at Turner landing with a county ordinance sign stating similar and has never been paid the least bit of attention from the visitors and the county its self that made the ordinances has never had any concerned whether followed or not in the 25 years living in it.. Another failed honor system not good because the majority of people do not read but just live in their “ME” world. The time taken for this whole project is sad, whole malls have been planned and completed in shorter time frames. My recommendation though not living in Columbia county is to have a someone posted that as a job to oversee all the rules. Make sure the money charged supports their salary. Ban open containers from floaters and commercial vendors on the river. Just recently rode up from 47 bridge to Rum Island and the river sadly and disappointingly was littered with beer bottles and other drinking containers literalyl every where one looked. It use to be a beautiful stretch of river.

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