Participants gather at the headspring before the walking tour
The OSFR newsletter website contains many previous posts narrating the relationship between Our Santa Fe River and Blue Springs, going back to 2008. The latest in this series took place on Oct.2, 2018 when the day-long Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park Preliminary Advisory Group Meeting was held at the park and in High Springs.
Naked Spring is located near the headspring of Blue.
Florida’s Acquisition and Restoration Council unanimously voted to purchase the park on June 19, 2015, thus preserving it from commercial development and water bottling plants. The park was formally opened on Oct. 7 of 2017 and became the latest of the state’s 175 parks. It consists of 402 acres and contains alluvial, bottomland and upland hardwood forests, basin and floodplain swamps, sandhills, sinkholes and springs. It also has infrastructure and some development from its status as a previous private park.
one of the largest cypress trees is found near Naked Spring
The purpose of the meeting was to obtain input from some stakeholders from the area, including environmentalists and businesses regarding the utilization and direction of the park. Two previous public meetings of this nature for interested citizens were held in the area. OSFR was represented at yesterday’s meeting by board member and secretary Patty Street. Your historian attended representing Suwannee St. Johns Group Sierra Club.
Johnson Spring, just east of Naked.
The mechanics of the well-planned meeting was directed by Sine Murry, aided by several other able and helpful Florida State Parks employees, who provided an immense body of information about the park and its setting. The group was immersed in this during a detailed walking tour of several hours duration.
Sine Murry directs the workshop
After the tour was completed, the group traveled to High Springs Community and reconvened for a working lunch and workshop lasting until 5 0’clock. Four groups all worked on the same topics, pooling thoughts regarding the park in relation to its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Subsequently, the groups gave opinions on land use for the various areas of the park.
Sine works the room and draws out opinions from the participants
In the earlier public input meetings, one of the primary concerns was that the spring be protected and preserved as much as possible. The Park Service has as their mission to preserve natural formations but still allow public access for recreation, and so must strike a balance between the two.
OSFR and Sierra Club both prefer less development in order to retain a more “real Florida” element, vis-à-vis the motto on the park lsigns. Happily, this seemed to be the concensus. There will be two more public input meetings, and the final plans will be drawn up by Spring of 2019.
Hats off to the State of Florida for purchasing the park, and to the Park Service for listening to the stakeholders and requesting input.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-