High Springs will continue looking into running Poe Springs Park

In this Sept. 5 file photo, Gainesville resident Jennifer Frank relaxes as Addison Frank, 2, plays in the cold water at Poe Springs in High Springs,.

Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun File
Published: Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 8:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 8:31 p.m.

On Thursday evening, a majority of the High Springs City Commission reaffirmed their desire to forge ahead with consideration of the city taking over the day-to-day operation of the county-owned Poe Springs Park.

Commissioner Linda Clark Gestrin said she always felt there was a bond between High Springs and Poe Springs, which sits on the banks of the Santa Fe River a few miles outside the city limits. She believed there was "huge potential" if the city assumed daily operations.

Commissioner Bob Barnas, who has been the point person on the city's negotiations with the county, and Mayor Dean Davis agreed.

On the other hand, commissioners Eric May and Sue Weller each said they loved the park but could not, at this time, support moving ahead because of unanswered budget questions.

May said at best the move would be "break even" for the city. At worst, High Springs, which is already in the midst of a budget crunch, could lose tens of thousands of dollars annually, he said.

Concerns voiced Thursday also touched on what would happen if the park became a profitable endeavor and whether the county would allow High Springs a share in any revenues generated above the city's expenses. There was also uncertainty as to whether county government would allow larger concerts and other events at what is considered a passive nature park.

The proposal that Barnas has put together includes kayak and canoe rentals as well as food concessions. Under Barnas' plan, admission would be $5 for a single occupant vehicle and $8 for vehicles carrying two to 6 passengers.

For some two decades, the YMCA operated the park for the county through a contract that gave the organization a $50,000 to $55,000 taxpayer subsidy annually. In recent years, a private firm, Nature Quest, operated the park with no county funding. The county took the park back on Oct. 1, citing lax maintenance and upkeep, and lack of required reports on finances and attendance by Nature Quest. Currently, the county charges no admission.

High Springs commissioners will discuss the issue again at the beginning of a Jan. 10 meeting. Any agreement would require future approval from the High Springs City Commission and the Alachua County Commission.

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com.

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