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Here is an article in the Gainesville sun regarding the repairs at Poe Springs. County authorities are looking for a “soft opening” on May 17, anticipating somewhat the Memorial Day full opening. Check out the video to see all the damage done by Irma.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
The Alachua County park is still in need of repairs from Irma due to slow federal approvals.
Even bureaucracies have to deal with bureaucracies and, in the case of Alachua County, it has kept people out of Poe Springs Park as the weather warms.
The county park on the Santa Fe River near High Springs was hit hard by Hurricane Irma in September — part of the boardwalk to the spring was crushed by an ash tree, other trees were splintered and buildings, including the bathrooms, were damaged.
More than a half-year later, the park is still closed.
The county, like individuals, sought approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make the repairs, said Charlie Houder, county director of parks and conservation land.
The county hopes to have the park open by Memorial Day, which is May 28.
Poe is the first of three springs off County Road 340. Downriver are Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park and the privately-owned Ginnie Springs.
Ginnie and Blue charge entrance fees, but Poe is free, making it more attractive to some people who want to cool off in the spring, drop a fishing line in the Santa Fe or launch a kayak for some paddling.
Poe also has a lodge that can be booked for events and an expansive grassy area for various activities.
Former High Springs City Commissioner Bob Barnas created a Facebook page about the spring’s status that has nearly 3,700 followers.
Some people have gone to the park not realizing it is closed, said Barnas, adding that the county should have made periodic announcements on the park’s website about the situation.
“My concern is the county hasn’t been proactive enough in letting the public know the status of repairs and openings,” Barnas said. “Gilchrist Blue Springs and Ginnie Springs is open — fee-based parks. Poe, being non-fee based, is a real desire for some people.”
The cost of the repairs to get the park open was not available but will likely run “a few 10s of thousands of dollars,” Houder said.
Once this year’s swimming season is over and the park closes in the fall, the county plans to make more improvements, including replacement of the boardwalk and restroom upgrades.
Possibly the spring itself will be cleaned of sand and debris that came in from the Santa Fe River.
“In general, we are going to get it all spiffed up. By next year this time, we’re hoping it will look a lot better,” Houder said. “Another thing we are potentially looking at … is siphoning some of the sand and muck that has been deposited in the spring. That’s been done at other springs in the district and we think this is a good candidate for that. It will help improve the flow and make it a nicer place to recreate.”