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Silver Springs State Park Opens Today

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

Associated Press Release

OCALA, Fla. (AP) -- Visitors will find a mixture of old and new at the brand new Silver Springs State Park near Ocala.

The new park opens Tuesday at the site of a decades-old tourist attraction that featured glass-bottom boats.

The Ocala Star-Banner (bit.ly/17n2WuW ) reports the boats will run three times a day, piloted by the same veteran captains who've ferried visitors up and down the Silver River for years.

State and local officials have spent millions on anti-pollution projects to preserve the springs, curtailing the flow of nitrates that have robbed the water of clarity. State officials say efforts to help Silver Springs will receive $20 million of the $37 million in springs-restoration Gov. Rick Scott announced in September.

Park rangers will be available for presentations on the springs, its history and wildlife.

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Information from: Ocala (Fla.) Star-Banner, http://www.starbanner.com/


Press Release: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Recreation and Parks welcomes Florida's most iconic spring - Silver Springs - into its award- winning parks system on Tuesday. In merging with Silver River State Park, the property will consist of 4,660 acres of uplands, wetlands and submerged lands that surround the Silver Springs headwaters and river, as well as Ross Allen Island.

"DEP is excited to add Silver Springs into our group of award-winning state parks," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "Managing this property will give residents and visitors a beautiful place to see Florida's natural resource and allow the Department to continue its work in improving the health of Silver Springs."

The Florida Park Service, volunteers and others within the department have worked diligently over the last several months on improving the property in preparation for this day. Environmental assessment and some renovations to the park have been completed, however improvements will continue to protect the water quality of the spring, enhance facilities and add new facilities to safeguard the natural and cultural resources in the park.

"I am excited to introduce Silver Springs State Park to the people and visitors of Florida," said Donald Forgione, Director of the Florida Park Service. "Silver Springs is special and represents 'old Florida.' I look forward to protecting it and helping people enjoy and appreciate all that it offers."

In addition to preserving the park, state and local funding is being used to improve the water quality in Silver Springs. Projects include reducing 663,000 pounds of nitrogen pollution per year going into Silver Spring and redirecting water to be reused in golf courses that are further away. Plans are also in place to eliminate more than 40,000 additional pounds of nitrogen entering the aquifer each year. These are part of the $37 million dollar springs projects announced by Governor Rick Scott in September. Of the $37 million dedicated statewide to restore springs, $20 million is being used to help Silver Springs.

The park will be open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to sunset. Entry to the park will be $5 for single occupant vehicle or $8 per vehicle, up to eight people. Individuals, bicyclists, extra passengers and groups will pay $2 per person. Admission will be good for both the spring and river portions of the park.

From the entrance on State Road 40, visitors will have access to Silver Springs for activities, such as kayaking, canoeing and glass bottom boat tours. Park rangers will present programs on park history, the health of the spring and wildlife. The Education Center will offer exhibits and information about the springs.

From the entrance on Baseline Road (County Road 35), visitors will have access to the Silver River, where hiking, off-road bicycling and horseback riding are popular. Cactus Jack's Trail Rides offers well-mannered horses and guided tours for those who do not have their own mounts. On weekends and holiday, the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center is open for visitors. Admission is $2 per person. The museum features exhibits on Florida's history and ecology. During the week, it is available for school groups only.

A concert schedule will be available soon. Wild Waters Water Park is expected to re-open in the spring.

On Oct. 4, an appointed advisory group of stakeholders will meet for the first of several focus group meetings to provide input for the amendment of the unit management plan for the park. The meeting will be held 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at "The Cafeteria," the first floor of Building #8, Silver Springs Town Center, 5656 E. Silver Springs Boulevard in Silver Springs. Public comment will be taken at the end of meeting, time permitting.

For more information: Silver Springs State Park, 1425 NE 58th Ave., Ocala, Florida. Phone: (352) 236-7148, website: see below


Associated Press Release

SILVER SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) -- One of Florida's oldest tourist attractions has closed down.

Silver Springs will reopen Oct. 1 as a state park. Sunday was its last day under operation by Palace Entertainment.

The north Florida attraction was famed for its glass bottom boats. It also was plagued by low attendance and pollution that clouded its waters.

The state agreed to accept a $4 million lease buy-out from Palace Entertainment. The funds will be used to help clean up the pollution and restore the property to its natural condition.

Fans of the attraction took a last tour Sunday. Chris Milano of Mount Dora tells the Ocala Star-Banner (http://bit.ly/165008r ) that she first visited as a child 50 years ago. She remembered the park's monkeys and water so clear she could see through to the bottom.

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Information from: Ocala (Fla.) Star-Banner, http://www.starbanner.com/


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