Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

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Florida Springs Institute Center Officially Open in High Springs

FSI openhouse 002
Open House at FSI visitors include Kristina Young Smithsonian Museum on Main Street High Springs Director, Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Policy Director OSFR, Jean Wonser, water advocate, Robert Hutchinson Alachua Co. commissioner

Florida Springs Institute celebrated their open house yesterday, as reported by Cindy Swirko in the Gainesville Sun, Sunday, March 6, 2016.  The new location gives great visibility to the Institute and its mission to promote and dispense information regarding our region’s unique springs.  High Springs, Our Santa Fe River and the community welcome Bob Knight and the Florida Springs Institute!ScrollInstitute will stand guard for local springs

Published: Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 4:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 4:48 p.m.

A lot people each year pass through High Springs to visit the region’s chilly water bodies and now Robert Knight hopes to get some of them to stop at the new home of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute.

The institute, of which Knight is director, had a celebratory open house Saturday. The two-story, corner building on U.S. 27 is more than the institute’s office. It also is an education center in which visitors can watch videos and read educational materials to learn about the springs.

“We’re here because about a million people a year go through High Springs to play in the springs. That’s just for recreation,” Knight said. “The reason we’re here is to try to impart some knowledge to those people as they pass through. They can find out what they can do for the springs. We’ll teach classes here.”

Many of the region’s springs — which include Ginnie, Blue, Poe and Ichetucknee — are being degraded by pollution from a variety of sources, including human waste and agricultural nutrients from fertilizer or animal waste.

The nonprofit institute conducts research, develops restoration and protection plans, and raises public awareness about the deteriorating condition of the springs.

It is supported by grants and private donations, including contributions from some area businesses. Knight sai.d Ginnie Spring Outdoors paid a year’s rent for the building.

Built in 1908 as High Springs’ first post office, the center is decorated with large photographs and banners showing the springs.

Offices are in a loft on the second floor while educational materials, including a computer with an interactive program to show all the springs in Florida, is on the high-ceilinged ground floor.

Knight said many businesses in High Springs benefit directly from the springs, from kayak outfitters to restaurants. Restoring the health of the springs will ensure their preservation and help enable local businesses to thrive.

“We have all of these businesses here that make a living from the springs, and the springs are in trouble. If we don’t turn that around, the economic heartbeat of this area is going to die,” Knight said. “High Springs has had a lot of problems over the years in maintaining businesses. We think that’s changing now and we are glad to be a small part of that.”

Many of the visitors at Saturday’s open house are active in environmental issues of the area, including Alachua County Commissioner Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson.

Visitor Russ Roy said he is an avid fisherman who has seen the impact of declining water quality.

“Everybody needs to learn more about this,” Roy said. “We take water for granted that it will never run out. People say, well 

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