DEP Keeps Community Updated on Silver Springs Transition to State Park System

OCALA – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service held a public meeting on Wednesday to update the public on the transition of the Silver Springs Attraction to Florida’s system of award-winning state parks.

“Following approval by the Governor and Cabinet in January 2012 for Silver Springs to become part of the state park system, we committed to involving the community in recreation opportunity decisions and continue our efforts of improving water quality in Silver Springs, one of Florida’s most iconic treasures,” said Donald Forgione, DEP’s Florida Park Service Director. ”This meeting was part of honoring that commitment.  We were pleased to share the progress being made in the transition of the property and welcoming it into our family of resource-based recreation areas and historic and cultural sites.”

Approximately 80 people attended the meeting where officials provided information on the Silver Springs basin management action plan; the ongoing design, repair and renovation activities being carried out on the Silver Springs attraction property; and the process for the land management plan for the Silver River State Park and the Silver Springs attraction. Public comments were accepted at the meeting and attendees were able to ask topic specific questions at stations set up around Fort King Presbyterian Church.

Department water quality staff presented plans for the restoration plan for Silver Spring and the steps being taken to ensure water quality and quantity for the Silver Spring and Silver River. A meeting is scheduled for Aug. 21.

Department staff reported on the designs, repair and renovation work that has taken place on site to-date. Completed projects include the entry boardwalk into the park, repairs to the glass bottom boats, repair of wood rot and painting of some buildings and storm water improvements, including reducing impervious surface, reshaping for better water flow and cleaning out existing ponds. New ponds were added with more contour to integrate into the natural landscape. A contractor treated and removed some exotic plants from formal gardens and natural landscapes.

The park will open on Oct.1 as part of the award-winning Florida State Park System. The entrance fee will be $5 for individuals or $8 per vehicle, up to 8 people, good for both Silver Springs and Silver River State Park. Hours will be 8 a.m. to sunset, 365 days per year. Negotiations are underway to find a vendor to offer food service, a gift shop, boat tours, canoe and kayak rentals, a concert series and special events. A vendor is still sought to operate the Wild Waters water park, which is expected to open next spring.

Activities will expand as facilities are renovated and the public can safely use them. All activities and facilities will not be available when the park opens.The lease with Palace Entertainment, which is running the property, ends Sept. 30. Wednesday’s meeting was the fourth the Department has held to inform the community about Silver Springs.

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