After 55 years, family is selling picturesque Blue Springs


In this file photo, volunteers gather turtles during a research project run by Jerry Johnston, a biology professor at Santa Fe College who focuses his research on turtles, at Blue Spring, near High Springs, Sunday Sept. 8, 2013.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 9:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 9:46 p.m.

Blue Springs has been in Kim Davis' and her brother Matt Barr's family since 1958, and it is with mixed emotions that they plan to sell it.

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In this file photo, volunteers gather turtles during a research project run by Jerry Johnston, a biology professor at Santa Fe College who focuses his research on turtles, at Blue Spring, near High Springs, Sunday Sept. 8, 2013.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun

Davis has run Blue Springs Park near High Springs for almost 26 years and remembers working there with her brother when they were kids. Her great-aunt, Ruth Kirby, received Blue Springs as an engagement gift from Ed Wright in 1958.

They never married since he became very ill before the ceremony but they remained companions until he died in 1969, Davis said.

Davis' father, Harry Barr, was more like a brother than a nephew to Kirby, who was close to him in age. When Kirby, who had Parkinson's disease, died in 1988, her father — whom everyone knew as Bud — became the executor of her estate and inherited Blue Springs. Kirby wanted Blue Springs to stay in the family and remain as natural as possible.

That's hard to do in today's world, Davis said, but she has strived to preserve Blue Springs' natural beauty over the years.

She and her brother Matt made the difficult decision to sell Blue Springs after their parents, Bud and Roina, died earlier this year at the ages of 92 and 83.

"It was very emotional, you know, when we found out after Dad died that we needed to just go ahead and sell the park," she said.

Their mother passed away in February and their father died in May, six days short of what would have been the couple's 61st anniversary.

"I just don't think he could have faced it alone," she said.

The decision to sell Blue Springs was a tough one, but they have other family businesses they need to take care of as well. You can only be stretched so thinly, she said.

"We do this with a heavy heart," she said.

Blue Springs Park is still open and will be run exactly the same until it is sold. "The customers will see no difference at all when they come to the park even though it is for sale," she said.

Blue Springs has attracted interest from public and private entities but there hasn't been anything serious yet, according to Davis.

The 401.6-acre property, located west of High Springs at 7450 NE 60th St., has been up for sale for about five months for a listed price of $10 million, said Todd Rainsberger, owner of and broker for Coldwell Banker Commercial M.M. Parrish Realtors. His company is the broker for Blue Springs.

The price is negotiable, as are most things in real estate these days, he said. The $10 million price tag may sound high to some people, but it's in line with the prices for which comparable springs have been sold.

Blue Springs drew much interest from the state government initially, although its interest apparently has waned due to concerns about operational costs. Staff with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have said that could change depending on funding and the mood of the Florida Legislature, according to Rainsberger.

Alachua County government was also interested in Blue Springs but found the money issue kind of off-putting as well, Rainsberger said.

There has also been some interest from private investors.

It was rumored some celebrities were interested in the property as a retreat, but Rainsberger said his company never got any traction on that.

"It's the kind of thing where you can't really justify the price based on the income from the park. You have to really want to own your own spring," he said. "I liken it to owning an island in the Caribbean. There aren't that many of them for sale and it would just be kind of neat to own one and be able to preserve it."

Rainsberger expected selling Blue Springs to be a lengthy process, as did Davis.

She and her brother's top priorities for the eventual sale are ensuring their employees will be taken care of and the land will be protected.

The park has several longtime staff members, including its manager, who has worked with Davis for almost 23 years.

A realtor.com listing for Blue Springs included a request that the sale not be mentioned to management or staff. Davis said that caveat was included because she and her brother wanted to wait until they could get all the park's employees together before telling them, although a Realtor who visited the park mentioned having heard about the sale to the staff before they got the chance to tell their employees themselves.

"Blue Springs looks as good as it does and runs as well as it does not because of me, (but) because of the people who work there on a daily basis," she said.

Davis isn't interested in selling to someone who wants to build houses or condominiums on the land.

"I want it protected even better than we were able to do it," she said. "That is an extremely high priority for us, along with taking care of our employees, because our employees have made Blue Springs what it is."

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gainesville.com.

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