No, it is not yet final, but it is a huge step down the road, and we are so happy that the ARC has recommended the purchase of Gilchrist Blue Springs by the state. And we are also proud to have had a small part in this decision. And we are grateful to all our readers who took the time to express their opinion to the ARC. And we are grateful to the ARC members who had the foresight to recommend purchase and the integrity to listen to the people of Florida.
State adds Blue Springs to its wish list for purchase
Patrons jump off the dock into the spring head at Blue Springs near High Springs in this August 20, 2013 file photo.
By Christopher Curry
Published: Friday, June 19, 2015 at 11:57 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 19, 2015 at 11:57 a.m.
The popular, family-owned Blue Springs is a step closer to becoming a state park.
Friday morning in Tallahassee, the state’s Acquisition and Restoration Council unanimously voted to add the swimming hole and 405-acre property on the Santa Fe River near High Springs to the list of first-magnitude springs the state is seeking to buy with Florida Forever funds.
The same family has owned the private park for nearly 60 years but have had the property on the market since 2013.
Former Suwannee River Water Management District conservation land acquisition chief Charles Houder, the real estate agent working with the family, approached the state with a proposal to add the property to the springs wish list.
The environmental group Our Santa Fe River also launched a campaign urging the state to buy the property.
The group pointed 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.
In a prior interview, Houder said placement on the list of springs the state wants to buy was one step in a long process. There still has to be a private appraisal and negotiations between state officials and the sibling owners, Kimberly David and Matt Barr.
David and Barr initially asked $10 million for the property when they put it up for sale in 2013, but were open to negotiation on the price.
There’s also uncertainty about the availability of Amendment 1 monies. The 2015-16 budget put a little over $17 million toward that land conservation program, drawing the ire of the environmental and conservation groups who backed the Amendment 1 referendum that put more than $700 million next year into the state’s land acquisition trust fund.
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.