HIGH SPRINGS, Fla. – Today, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service announced the opening of Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park in High Springs, Florida’s 175th state park. The property, which contains six natural springs and includes approximately one mile of frontage along the Santa Fe River, has been providing recreational opportunities as a private park since 1958. As a state park, Gilchrist Blue Springs will continue to offer numerous opportunities for resource-based recreation, including swimming, paddling and hiking. Florida is the only state to win three National Gold Medal for Excellence following the Florida Parks Service’s third award in 2013.
Governor Rick Scott said, “Florida is home to an award-winning state park system, which helps protect our many unique natural treasures and attract millions of visitors to our state. Our parks are incredibly important, which is why I am proposing a record $50 million to protect our state parks for future generations as part of the historic investments for Florida’s environment. I am proud to celebrate the opening of our state’s 175th state park and encourage families to enjoy Florida’s beautiful outdoors at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park.”
Governor Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved the purchase of the 407-acre Gilchrist Blue Springs property for $5.2 million in June, and DEP closed on the property earlier this month. The property was purchased with Florida Forever funding, and was ranked number 1 in the Florida Forever Partnerships and Regional Incentives project category.
“I am excited that DEP was not only able to acquire this property and the important natural resources within it, but that it will continue to be protected and enjoyed by Floridians and visitors long into the future as a member of our award-winning state park system,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “I am grateful to our many partners and stakeholders who helped make this acquisition possible and I look forward to continuing to work with them as we develop a management plan for this park.”
The Florida Park Service is working with the current park staff and concessionaire to ensure a seamless transition of services and amenities as the park opens, including the availability of paddlesport rentals and concessions. The park entrance fee is $6 per vehicle up to eight passengers, following standard state park guidelines.
The Florida Park Service staff will soon begin the unit management plan (UMP) development process, which will include multiple opportunities for public input. DEP will host a preliminary public meeting to gather comments and ideas for the development of the management plan on Nov. 28, 2017. All of Florida’s State Parks are governed by its management plan, which includes recreational and resource management plans and activities based on the specific resources of each park. Community and stakeholder input is a vital part of the UMP development process, so interested users and community members are encouraged to sign up here to receive updates.
Among the six natural springs contained on the property is a large second magnitude spring that produces an average of 44 million gallons of water per day. This spring, known as Gilchrist Blue, discharges water through a shallow spring run about one-quarter mile to the Santa Fe River. The other named springs on-site are Little Blue Spring, Naked Spring and Johnson Spring. Click here for park website.