New signs are for springs' protection


Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 11:27 p.m.

Be on the lookout for another road sign.

A batch of blue markers calling attention to the region's springs will soon be installed in Alachua County.

The signs, with the silhouette of a cave diver and the words "Springs Protection Area," are meant to let people know they are in an area where runoff from activities such as car washing or lawn fertilizing can pollute springs or the aquifer, said Chris Bird, Alachua County environmental protection director.

"To protect the springs, you have to protect a large land area around the springs called the springshed, which is basically the area where the water that goes into the ground ends up feeding that spring," Bird said. "The signs are to try to raise public awareness and to remind not only our residents but our visitors that they are traveling in an area that is sensitive and where what is done on the land can pollute the springs."

Some of the roads on which signs will be placed are county roads 236 and 241, US 27/41 and Interstate 75.

The signs are being installed in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation. District DOT spokeswoman Gina Busscher said similar signs have been installed in neighboring counties along the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers.

Signs are also being put up around springs elsewhere in Florida under a state Department of Environmental Protection initiative.

Officials believe the area's drinking and recreational waters are increasingly under threat from growth and development. Most of the county's springs are in the northwest corridor along the Santa Fe River.

The city of Alachua and High Springs, the two cities closest to the river, are experiencing considerable residential and commercial growth.

Officials with Alachua County and the cities along the river corridor are starting to discuss a joint planning effort to protect springs.

"The springs are the canary in the coal mine. If our springs go bad, that means we have a lot of bad water," Bird said. "They are really symbolic of the health of the entire aquifer."

Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com

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