SRWMD Buys Otter Springs Complex, Bans Bottling

The 636-acre Otter Springs complex on the Suwannee River in Gilchrist County has been purchased by the Suwannee River Water Management District at a cost of $6.8 million.  Staff writer Cindy Swirko has written an article in the Gainesville Sun explaining the details.  Read on for the article, or view  HERE the original article which appeared in the Sun on August 14, 2008.

Water district purchases Otter Springs complex, bans bottling

By 
Sun staff writer
Published: Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 6:17 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 6:17 a.m.

 The 636-acre Otter Springs complex on the Suwannee River in Gilchrist County has been purchased by the Suwannee River Water Management District at a cost of $6.8 million.  The district governing board Tuesday approved the purchase, which includes the relinquishing of a bottled-water permit that had been issued for the springs.

 Annette Long, president of Save Our Suwannee, lauded the purchase.   “It’s a beautiful little spring with a great run, and traditionally the public hasn’t had access to it,” Long said. “Having it open to the public again will be incredible. Plus the state is getting 600 acres of river floodplain.”

Selling the property are Arnold and Geri Jackson, who had the property under the name of different corporations, said district Deputy Executive Director Charlie Houder.   The district had granted a permit to withdraw water for bottling.   Gilchrist County had not issued a permit and no water had been drawn.  Houder said the district intends to “extinguish” the permit.

The influx of water bottlers in the area is of concern to environmentalists and others who fear that the withdrawal of too much water will have a negative impact on the ecosystems and the amount of groundwater for local residents.

Otter Springs has a store, office, recreation building, a 6,000-square-foot lodge, two bath houses, an enclosed heated in-ground swimming pool, three housekeeping cabins, a single family home and 100 recreational vehicle sites.   District officials said the facilities will remain in use.  The closing on the purchase is set for October, and a management plan that may lease the park to Gilchrist County could be ready by then, Houder said.

Gilchrist County currently runs Hart Springs, which has a campground and other facilities.    “Over the years we picked the low-hanging fruit for our acquisition program, and there aren’t many properties like this left,” Houder said. “We get over 6,000 feet of river frontage, two nice second-magnitude springs, 600 acres of relatively intact natural communities and these tremendous recreation resources. This is one of the more exciting projects we’ve had in the last couple of years.”

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