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ALACHUA ‒ This past weekend, the City of Alachua’s Recreation & Culture Department and District 5 hosted the highly anticipated first round of All-Star play for youth ages 4 to 15. The event, held across multiple venues including the Hal Brady Recreation Complex, the baseball park at downtown Skinner Field, and Preacher Copland Field at Progress Park, saw participation from over 40 teams.

These teams hailed from various areas, including Alachua/High Springs, Newberry, Palatka, Bradford, Chiefland, Gainesville, Wriggly, Williston, Keystone, Melrose, Bronson, and Archer.

The tournament was marked by sportsmanship, teamwork, and dedication, leaving a lasting impression on participants and spectators alike. The local volunteers, coaches, and officials played a crucial role in ensuring the smooth execution of the event and in creating unforgettable memories for all involved. Congratulations and best of luck to the teams advancing to the Florida State Championship Round.

In addition to the sports festivities, the City of Alachua also organized a trip for its senior citizens. Last week, a group of the city’s golden agers embarked on an enriching journey to St. Augustine, Florida. The trip, which included lunch, sightseeing, strolling, shopping, and bonding, was a resounding success, thanks to the assistance and coordination of Crafty Gemini. This initiative is part of the city’s ongoing efforts to provide quarterly adventures for local senior citizens.

Looking ahead, the City of Alachua is set to offer more exciting recreational opportunities. The 399 Sports & Recreation Basketball Academy will be hosting two three-week sessions, promising a mix of fun, skill-building, and competitive games for young basketball enthusiasts. Additionally, on June 22, the Legacy Park Multipurpose Center will host the Saucy Elite Basketball Camp, featuring two-time Gainesville Sun Player of the Year Don’Trell Jenkins and other local basketball legends. These events aim to nurture young talent and provide enriching experiences for the community.

For more information on upcoming activities and programs, residents can contact the City of Alachua’s Recreation & Culture Department at or call the Legacy Multipurpose Center at 386-454-0145. Those interested in the basketball camp can reach out to 399 Sports & Recreation via email at

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NEWBERRY ‒ Construction of a new City Hall, which has been on the minds of City Commissioners for some time, has moved one step closer to fruition with the 4 – 1 vote to authorize the issuance of $6.29 million in Capital Improvement Revenue Bonds, Series 2024 to generate proceeds to finance the project. Commissioner Mark Clark was in dissent.

The Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for City Hall has come in at just over $8.5 million. “Staff will provide more GMP information at the June 10 meeting,” said Assistant City Manager/CFO Dallas Lee. Construction will be funded through the issuance of these bonds and the utilization of various reserve funds. The bonds will feature a 30-year level debt service amortization, with interest payments beginning on March 1, 2025, and principal payments beginning on September 1, 2025.

Commissioners want to get all staff under one roof to help citizens more easily conduct business with the City.

NC Ranch

The project known as NC Ranch Planned Development received approval on second reading of the ordinance at the May 28 City Commission meeting. Ordinance 2024-14/LDR 23-06 was introduced at the first public hearing on April 15and approved by majority vote.

The application from Patrice Boyes, Esq. and CHW Professional Consultants, agent, was on behalf of Norfleet Properties, LLLP; E.D. Norfleet & Sons, Inc.; E.D. Norfleet, Jr. and Phyllis Norfleet; E.D. Norfleet III; Katrina Bill; and, Norfleet Construction Co., owners. The application is to rezone property from Agricultural (A) to Planned Development (PD) for a project known as NC Ranch Planned Development.

The site is located west of US Highway 41 between Northwest 53rd Lane and Northwest 10th Avenue and consists of approximately 1,293 acres. The petition proposes 4,500 dwelling units, 700,000 square feet of non-residential uses, and 250 assisted living facility beds.

Highland Park

The project formerly known as Newberry Plaza was heard by resolution to adopt the planned development construction plans for the non-residential aspect of the development. The application was made by CHW Professional Consultants, agent on behalf of Newberry Plaza LLC, owner.

Commissioner Mark Clark recused himself from any Highland Park-related issue as he is in negotiation to purchase a house on the same property.

When this item was heard by the Planning and Zoning Board, they suggested a number of conditions for approval. The Commission agreed with their suggestions. Conditions include: a traffic signal required prior to fueling station and/or 72,000 square feet of commercial property; wastewater lines to be made eight feet deep to 12 feet deep and making the lift station larger; fair share contributions for improvements to adjacent intersections; pioneering agreement required for oversizing of wastewater lines and upgrade of lift station; easement agreement for wastewater lines; and transfer fee-simple east 40 feet of section line right-of-way (code required).

City Manager Mike New said that Publix, the City and Alachua County had previously agreed to pay a portion of the cost of installing the traffic signal.

Representing CHW Professional Consultants, Gerry Dedenbach was on hand to explain that they had already agreed to pay a portion of the cost of the traffic signal as well. Following lengthy discussions, both Dedenbach and Henry Fortes said they would pay any additional costs required to install the traffic signal.

In a second action regarding Highland Park, Resolution 2024-17/SD 24-07 unanimously approved a preliminary plat of all residential phases included in the Newberry Plaza Planned Development for 350 detached single-family residential lots.

Although the residential phases were originally set at seven, the developer wanted to reduce that number to two phases to attract national builders to the project. Dedenbach said national builders want to do 90 – 100 residences. Had the Commission agreed to reduce the phases from seven to two, Phase I would have included 193 developable lots and Phase II would have included 157 developable lots. Also, one additional through street connection was added to the southern properties. The Gray residence, to be purchased by Commissioner Clark, was removed from the platted area of residential properties.

Concern was raised by Commissioner Tim Marden that 75 homes per year would work best with the number of staff available to review plans, etc. Commissioner Rick Coleman said he wanted local builders and not national builders, who tend to build fast and then disappear.

Once again the Planning and Zoning Board recommended stipulations: sidewalks on both sides of the street, a good-faith effort to preserve trees on-site, provide sufficient shade trees throughout the residential areas, provide traffic calming throughout the residential area, voluntarily offer limitations to the number of new home constructions per year and/or per phase and increase the number of phases to a number greater than two and closer to seven.

SW 4th Avenue Turn Lane

Commissioners authorized the City Manager to execute a contract with O’Steen Brothers, Inc. to construct the Southwest 4th Avenue turn lane modifications for $305,431 and to authorize the City Manager to authorize change orders up to 10 percent of the contract amount.

The project scope is the addition of left turn lane for westbound traffic on Southwest 4th Avenue onto U.S. Highway 27/41. The project was estimated to cost $180,000 originally, but project bid amounts came in at $305,000 - $715,000. The project is to be construction from June 1 – Aug. 1 to avoid school times. Staff indicated funding for the project was included in the approved Fiscal Year 2023 – 2024 budget.

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L-R: Carolyn Waters, High Springs Garden Club President Claudia Wolfson, Kathy Fowler and Bob Fowler.


HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The High Springs Garden Club has the honor of choosing Bob and Kathy Fowler for our “Yard of the Season.”

Their love of plants and gardening is reflected in their manicured yard. You can drive by and see the yard at 18786 240th Street, St High Springs. 

The Garden Club will be choosing another beautiful yard in the fall.

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NEWBERRY ‒ The measure to convert Newberry public schools to charter schools was brought to a vote in April 2024. The City of Newberry and a group called Newberry Education First requested a vote by classroom teachers and parents on the conversion of Newberry Elementary School, Oak View Middle School and Newberry High School to charter schools beginning with the 2025-26 school year.

After months of rigorous public debate, townhalls, and public campaigning, the parents and teachers at two of the three public schools in Newberry voted down proposed conversions from public schools to charter schools.

The April 17 tallying of votes at the Newberry Municipal Building lasted for several hours and ended in some doubt as to the outcome of the vote for the Newberry Elementary School conversion.

The dispute over whether the elementary school charter conversion achieved enough affirmative ballots was called into question. Based on information from the Florida Department of Education, proponents of the conversation maintain the vote for Newberry Elementary was sufficient to claim victory, and the City of Newberry is working to align ordinances and assist in the charter school application.

Newberry City Manager Mike New on the City Commission meeting on May 28, 2024, reviewed the list of steps the City is going through to develop an ordinance and get the necessary documents in place for the charter school. At one point he said the charter application has 22 parts to the application.

New said they have initiated a process to develop ordinance language establishing the charter school, make-up of the governing board, responsibilities, limitations, etc. anticipating adoption in June.

He said the City has downloaded a copy of the charter application and is reviewing/assigning responsibilities. He said he is working to initiate a process to develop agreements between the City and the Charter holder (a 501(c)3 entity) for the City to prepare/submit a charter school application and to operate the school in accordance with the anticipated charter.

New said further he has solicited proposals from firms with expertise to complete the charter application by August, for submission by September deadline for consideration by the Charter School Review Committee.

He has also received a proposal budget from Education First Newberry and it is under review.

New informed the Commission that he plans to discuss this further at the June 10 City Commission meeting. He also provided a charter application timeline to help commissioners visualize the schedule.

The next Newberry City Commission meeting is June 10.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ Children 18 years old and younger can receive free breakfast and lunch during the summer months through the Alachua County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) department.

The Summer Meals Program, funded by the federal government, is open to any child regardless of family income. The meals are served at more than 70 sites, including local schools and other locations.

Children do not have to be enrolled at a particular school or program to receive meals. They also do not have to be eligible for free and reduced-price meals during the regular school year to take advantage of the program. Children do need to eat the meal on-site, and families going to schools for meals are asked to check in at the front office.

“Families can take their children to the site that’s most convenient for them,” said Jamie Lovett, Director of the district’s Food and Nutrition Services department. “They just show up during the serving times and enjoy a nutritious meal, with no registration required.”

The Summer Meals Program provides nutritionally balanced meals to all children during summer vacation when school breakfasts and lunches are not available. All children 18 years old and younger are eligible, and families can take advantage of the program at any of the local sites. Baby formula, cereal and food are also available, although families should call the FNS office at 352-955-7539 two days ahead of time to make those arrangements.

New this summer will be several mobile sites, one each in Alachua, Archer, East Gainesville and High Springs and four stops in Hawthorne. At those sites, families can pick up food twice a week to cover seven days’ worth of meals combined. Participants will receive a bag containing ingredients to prepare at-home meals for breakfast and lunch. The five sites are the only locations that allow for families to pick up meals to prepare at home.

Most sites will be up and running the week of June 3, 2024, with several running through July 26. The dates and times that meals will be served will vary from site to site. Details are available at Click on the banner labeled ‘Free Summer Meals’ or call 352-955-7539.

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Photo by SUZETTE COOK/special to Alachua County Today


GAINESVILLE ‒ The University of Florida’s Fishing for Success (FFS) program hosted a special Fishing for Autism event on Saturday, May 18, 2024, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The idea for hosting an event specifically for children with autism and their families was started three years ago by Fishing for Autism Founder Katy O’Connor, whose son Chase, 8, is autistic and non-verbal. O’Connor lives in Ontario, Canada, with her family and started taking Chase fishing at a small pond because of the calming effect of the experience.

“That was our bonding time and form of therapy for us, so I started Fishing for Autism in my hometown, and it expanded from there,” she said.

In 2019, O’Connor said professional nuisance alligator trapper Ron Sanderson of Gainesville reached out to her after he learned about her efforts from her Instagram account. “He saw my event photos and asked if he could branch it out to Gainesville.”

Coming from a small town, O’Connor said it was incredible that the University of Florida offered to host Fishing for Autism at the UF/IFAS Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences ponds off Millhopper Road. “Biologists use these ponds for their studies, and I’m excited that my event has made it out there,” she said.

On the day of the event, there were stations for attendees to go pond fishing, dip netting for invertebrates, various games and activities, sensory bins and toys, arts and crafts, prizes, and food.

Prior to the event Sanderson said he would be there helping families with fishing equipment and to see the kids and families enjoying the activities. “It’s about seeing the joy in the kids’ eyes and watching them react when they catch a fish,” he said about why he likes to help out at the event.

Another headliner was Hall of Fame competitive bass fisherman Shaw Grisby. Grigsby is one of the most popular, well-liked anglers in the country,

FFS Program Coordinator Bethan Gillett said the event offers a peaceful and relaxing experience that attendees can enjoy as a family. “Fishing can be therapeutic, and the kids get so happy and excited when they catch a fish.”

“There were passports for kids to take from station to station to get stamped and then trade it in for a goodie bag. Fishing gear, t-shirts, and other prizes were raffled off. The May 18 event was open only to children with autism and their families unlike the monthly FFS events which are open to the public.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ Although plenty of Florida’s craft brewers advertise their libations as brewed with state-grown ingredients, a vital ingredient – hops – is not readily available within the Sunshine State. A University of Florida study currently underway, however, may help pave the way for a robust crop of Florida-grown hops.

Beer HopsAromaTesting0006Researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) believe they have identified a method for making hop-growing viable despite Florida’s incompatible climate: greenhouses.

“This has never been done in Florida,” said Katherine Thompson-Witrick, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department and the leader of the study.

In 2021, the Florida craft brewing industry generated $4.1 billion for the state, the fourth-largest amount in the country, according to the Brewers Association, a Colorado-based organization that monitors the industry.

Since January 2023, when the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services awarded Thompson-Witrick and her team a grant, they have harvested two crops of hops from a greenhouse at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka. In June, they hope to harvest again. Their objective is to develop cultivation practices that maximize aromatic and flavor characteristics comparable to those associated with traditional craft beer-brewing regions like Yakima Valley in Washington.

Thompson-Witrick’s team planted 20, 2-inch-tall seedlings of Cascade and Chinook varieties in April 2023. By July 2023, the plants had reached 20 feet tall, and the vines had to be manually separated to prevent them from becoming tangled.

“We saw a substantial amount of growth in the first nine months of this project, which is really outstanding and amazing for us,” Thompson-Witrick said.

The key was supplemental lighting installed within the greenhouse. Hops grow best when afforded at least 16 hours of sunlight, which is available at latitudes of 35 degrees and above; Florida’s uppermost latitude reaches just 31 degrees. The UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm has conducted breeding studies to develop Florida-compatible hops capable of adapting to the state’s shorter days.

Based on Thompson-Witrick’s preliminary research, the growth and flowering rates of the Apopka plants suggest her method could obtain the same yield of hops – per plant – as Yakima Valley.

But is the product as appealing to the senses?

Thompson-Witrick uses a gas chromatography mass spectrometer to detect the chemical compounds contained within the hops, the alpha and beta assets that quantify how bitter a beer brewed from them would be. For a more subjective analysis, she recruited human volunteers.

Throughout UF’s spring semester, 14 students met regularly to pry open the lids of condiment containers and carefully stick their noses inside.

The contents, resembling shredded alfalfa, were heady, but layered beneath the strong earthy odor were hints of citrus, spice and floral notes. Students took deep sniffs and recorded the strength of the various scents they detected. They smelled both the Apopka hops as well as commercial ones, but they did not know which hops were which.

The repeated sensory trainings will eventually lead to official blind testing and comparison between commercial varieties and Thompson-Witrick’s product.

“We want to disseminate our findings to growers to help with diversifying the state’s agricultural crops and to provide information that would be critical to further cultivating hops,” she said.

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TALLAHASSEE - Today, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Dave Kerner issued the following statement regarding an early morning crash in Marion County between an International Bus transporting 53 people and a Ford Ranger truck:

The Florida Highway Patrol is currently investigating a traffic crash which occurred at approximately 6:35 am, on State Road 40, approximately 500 feet west of SW 148 Court. The collision involved a 2010 International Bus, transporting approximately 53 employees of a farming company, and a 2001 Ford Ranger private truck.

Initial investigation reveals that the two vehicles made contact in a sideswipe type collision. Post collision, the bus traveled off the roadway, through a fence, and then overturned. Currently, eight people have been confirmed deceased and approximately 40 people have been transported to local medical facilities.

At 1:47 PM today, State Troopers assigned to the FHP Northern Region Specialized Investigations and Reconstruction Team (SIRT) arrested Bryan Maclean Howard, the driver of the private Ford Ranger truck, on the following criminal charges – Eight (8) counts of Driving Under the Influence – Manslaughter.    

Identities of the deceased will be released pending next of kin notification. Our sympathies and prayers are with the families of the deceased. Consistent with our duties, the Florida Highway Patrol will conduct both a thorough and exhaustive traffic crash and criminal investigation.

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TALLAHASSEE, FL - Looking for a way to show your support of Florida panther conservation? Consider getting the newly designed Protect the Panther license plate whether you are renewing your Florida plates or licensing your car in the state for the first time.

Staff with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) worked with photographer Carlton Ward and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida to design the new plate. The latest design features a stunning photograph taken by Carlton in 2018 depicting a well-known panther — the first female documented north of the Caloosahatchee River since 1973 and also the first female documented to have had kittens north of the river in over 40 years. The Caloosahatchee River has long appeared to be an obstacle to the natural expansion of the population, including the northward movement of female panthers.

The new license plate can be purchased at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles or by checking with your local tax collector office for availability. When renewing vehicles, Florida motorists can exchange their old plates for the new Protect the Panther plate by going in person to your local tax collector office or the FLHSMV. At this time, the new plates are not available through online renewals but can be purchased in person.

Fees from the Protect the Panther license plate go directly into the Florida Panther Research and Management Trust Fund, which is a critical source of funding for the state’s panther-related research, monitoring and conservation efforts. The long-term public support of this fund has had a direct positive impact on the FWC’s management and research efforts, resulting in timely, science-based information needed to guide current and future conservation actions for Florida panthers. The FWC and conservation partners have made significant progress with panther recovery and the FWC’s panther program relies upon sales of the license plate to continue these conservation efforts.

Florida panthers are native to the state, with the majority of panthers found south of Lake Okeechobee. Florida panthers are listed as an Endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act. There are approximately 120-230 adult panthers in the population.

Purchasing a Protect the Panther license plate isn’t the only way you can help panthers. Drivers can also help by following all posted speed limits, particularly in panther zones, which are in place in several counties across south Florida to coincide with areas where panthers are known to cross. Panther speed zones help protect both Florida panthers and motorists from vehicle collisions and potential injury. You can also donate directly to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida’s Florida Panther Fund to support the rehabilitation and release of injured panthers and help FWC staff and partners locate and protect panthers, including their dens and kittens.

To learn more about Florida panthers and the FWC’s work to conserve the species, visit

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~Suspect crashed ambulance and fled on foot after his photo was taken by in car camera ~

TAMPA, Fla.- Early this morning at approximately 2:00 a.m., a supervisor with American Medical Rescue (AMR), a private ambulance service, observed a vehicle that appeared to be involved in a crash located on the Interstate 75 (I-75) Southbound exit ramp to Interstate 4 (I-4) Westbound in Hillsborough County.

The supervisor, who was driving a Chevy Tahoe marked as a rescue vehicle, decided to check the welfare of the individual involved.

Rolling down his window, he asked if everything was ok. The driver of the crashed vehicle approached the ambulance and began throwing himself at the window, gaining access to the ambulance. Once inside, the subject started fighting with the ambulance driver and took control of the vehicle. The ambulance driver, fearing for his life, exited the vehicle and called 9-1-1.

FHP 3 22 2024 Ambulance Carjack SuspectWhile attempting to flee in the stolen ambulance, the suspect collided with a Nissan Altima on the ramp for Interstate 75 Southbound to Interstate 4 Westbound. As Deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) responded, the suspect fled in the marked ambulance. The HCSO pursued the ambulance but lost contact with it and terminated the pursuit.

The ambulance's in-car camera system reported a vehicle crash at 2:09 a.m. and took a photo of the suspect inside the vehicle. The suspect fled the scene of the crash, and the ambulance was later recovered. 

The suspect is described as a white male who appeared to be under the influence of unknown drugs. To view video of the incident click here.


 Anyone with information regarding this incident or the identity of the carjacking suspect is asked to call *FHP (*347) or Crime Stoppers at **TIPS.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a milestone in Florida’s continuing economic success: Florida’s statewide unemployment rate has been lower than the national rate for 40 consecutive months. The national unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent for February 2024; Florida’s rate did not rise and outperforms the national rate by 0.8 percentage point. And while Florida’s private sector job growth rate increased by 2.3 percent (+194,200 jobs) over the year in February 2024, the national rate grew by only 1.6 percent over the same period.
“Florida continues to outperform the nation,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “We have proven that bold, conservative leadership across the board produces booming economic results—more jobs, lower taxes, less regulation, and fiscal security.”

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida continues to provide an economy for our residents that is primed for opportunity and secure for future growth,” said J. Alex Kelly, Florida Secretary of Commerce. “Florida’s strong talent pipeline and skilled workforce are the building blocks of Florida’s economic growth and stability. February’s economic data is more absolute evidence that Florida is on the right path.”

Florida’s economic data continues to indicate economic strength and confidence among Florida’s workforce as the state’s labor force grew by 2.0 percent (+217,000) over the year in February 2024, which is faster than the comparable national rate of 0.7 percent.

The education and health services sector gained the most jobs among all major industries, adding 57,500 jobs over the year. The trade, transportation, and utilities sector performed second best, adding 48,300 jobs. And importantly, leisure and hospitality (tourism) added 35,000 jobs.

Data in the month of February continues to indicate there are many job opportunities available for every Floridian who wants to work, with more than 443,000 jobs posted online. Floridians in search of work and new job opportunities can utilize the CareerSource Florida network for help. Floridians can find guidance on how to register with Employ Florida and search listings of available local job openings. Career seekers can also improve their employability by enhancing resume writing and interviewing skills, establishing career goals, and pursuing customized career training. These services are provided at no cost to job seekers by the State of Florida. 

To view the February 2024 jobs reports by region, please see below: 
•    Fort Lauderdale
•    Jacksonville
•    Miami
•    Orlando
•    Pensacola
•    Southwest Florida
•    Tampa
•    West Palm Beach

To view the February 2024 employment data, visit: 
Visit Florida Insight for more information on labor market and economic data. Additionally, the Department has provided a video to assist users in explaining the data provided through Florida Insight. 

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TALLAHASSEE, FL - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is sharing the reminder that sea turtles are starting to nest on our beaches. Residents and visitors can play a big part in helping to protect vulnerable nesting sea turtles this spring and summer while visiting Florida’s coastal habitats.

Because our state’s shorelines provide important nesting habitat for several species of threatened and endangered sea turtles, beachgoers can have a significant impact on their nesting success. To help nesting sea turtles, people can take easy steps to protect them, including giving them space, minimizing disturbances and keeping beaches clean and dark.

Clear the way at the end of the day: Female sea turtles expend large amounts of energy crawling out of the surf and far enough up the sand in order to dig and lay nests in spots that are less vulnerable to the tides. Obstacles on the beach can entrap and prevent them from nesting as they crawl across the sand to lay their eggs. Trash, holes in the sand and other obstacles can also prevent sea turtle hatchlings from reaching the water once they emerge from their nests. Food scraps attract predators, such as raccoons and crows, that prey on sea turtle hatchlings. Litter on beaches can entangle sea turtles, birds and other wildlife. What can you do to help?  Properly stash or recycle all trash, fill in human-made holes in the sand, and remove all beach toys, gear and furniture from the sand before sunset. Fishing line can be deadly to sea turtles, waterbirds and other wildlife, so be sure to dispose of it properly. To find a monofilament recycling station near you, visit

Lights out: Any lighting can misdirect and disturb nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings, leading them away from the ocean and toward potential danger. To prevent this, beachgoers should use natural starlight to see when on the beach at night and avoid using flashlights or cellphones. Anyone living along or visiting Florida beaches can do their part by putting porch, parking or deck lights out and closing curtains after dark to avoid disorienting nesting and hatchling sea turtles on the beach. If lighting could still be visible from the beach, be sure it is long, low and shielded

Admire from afar: While it can be exciting to witness sea turtles on the beach, getting too close (50 feet or less) to nesting sea turtles can cause them to leave the beach before they complete the nesting process. If an animal changes their behavior, you’re likely too close. Remember – it is illegal to harm or disturb nesting sea turtles, their nests and eggs, or to pick up hatchlings.  

Sea turtles typically return to nest in March along Florida’s southeast Atlantic coast from Brevard County south to Broward County, while nesting begins on Gulf Coast or north Florida beaches in April or May.

For more information about nesting sea turtles and how you can help, visit or see the FWC’s “Be a Beach Hero” brochure. Other ways to help sea turtles include reporting those that are sick, injured, entangled or dead to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

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Medication reconciliation is a term used in healthcare that describes the process of comparing a patient’s medication orders in a healthcare institution (hospital or nursing home) to what the patient has been prescribed and taking at home.

The purpose of this short column is to point out that many times patients are admitted to an institution, sometimes in an emergency, and it is difficult to determine what medications have been taken at home. Often when asked about their medicWilliam-Garst-HS.jpgations the response is “I take a blood pressure drug, a blood thinner, something for cholesterol, and something occasionally for arthritis pain.”

Just those four categories of medications probably describe several dozen, if not more, potential medications. What is needed is an exact listing of the medications with their dose (strength), how often they are taken, and when they are taken.


The perfect list of medications would be an official one from the patient’s primary care physician or provider. However, often what is presented at the institution is a handwritten list with the barest of information.

I am suggesting in this short column that a person, each time they see their primary care physician, request a current list of their medications with doses and instructions, to be printed for them or even emailed to them for reference in case of an emergency.

This list would also be helpful to take to their pharmacist for comparison to what the pharmacy has on file in their computer profile. In this way, the pharmacist could request a prescription to be there at the pharmacy before it is needed, if there have been changes to the drug, dose, or how often the medication is taken. In addition, the pharmacist may want to notify the primary care physician of other medications that have been prescribed that are not on the primary care physician's record.

This brings up another important aspect: sometimes other physicians (specialists or emergency department physicians) have prescribed medication for a patient and the primary care physician is unaware and would need to know this addition, even if temporary, for a complete listing of medications.

It is vital that medication regimens be accurate as patients transition between healthcare environments as a matter of safety and proper medication administration. Keep the list handy or scan it into your computer for ready reference.

I hope this column was informative; prosper and be in health.

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William Garst is a consultant pharmacist who lives in Alachua, Florida. He is semi-retired and works part time at Lake Butler Hospital in Lake Butler, Florida. William received his pharmacy degree at Auburn University and a Doctor of Pharmacy from Colorado University. The Pharmacy Newsletter is a blog where you can find other informative columns. He may be contacted at

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The Editorial Board of Alachua County Today has rarely taken to endorsing candidates in local political races; however, there are times when it becomes necessary. Such is the case in the City of High Springs commission races scheduled for Nov. 7, 2023. Up for consideration are four candidates in two races. In Seat 1, electors in High Springs will have the opportunity to select between the incumbent, Ross Ambrose, and Andrew Miller. In Seat 2, voters will consider incumbent, Gloria James, and Steven Tapanes.

For many years, the City of High Springs experienced considerable political tumult, so much so that it created harsh divisions within the community. Over the last few election cycles, voters have managed to regain control of their commission, placing on the dais community-minded, non-partisan commissioners who have been focused on moving High Springs forward, into a more fiscally sound and responsible direction.

Tax increases are rarely, if ever, welcomed by the taxpayers, but tax increases are sometimes necessary. The City of High Springs, like every other small town, is feeling the financial pinch of inflation. We all feel the financial pinch of inflation. Without an increase in taxes this year, the City of High Springs would be setting itself up for financial straits in the years to come. Simply put, the City has to pay someone to fix water pipes, respond to emergencies, put out fires, and maintain the City’s infrastructure. That is to say nothing of the business of running the City. There is no doubt that there are some, including former commissioners, who want to sow divisions, but these efforts are not productive for the citizens.

Some candidates, and one commissioner, who is not up for election this cycle, have criticized the incumbent commissioners for approval of the FY 2023-24 budget, which did include an increase in the millage rate. It’s easy for one commissioner to sit by and criticize, without solution, a budget which she knows will pass while she avoids the political hit by voting against it.

To be sure, there is always work to be done on tightening the belt on government, reducing waste, and finding new and innovative ways to deliver governance and the services the citizens have come to appreciate and expect. The City of High Springs does not exist in a vacuum however, and for that reason, there are simply some economic conditions the City cannot avoid.

It is because of the work done by commissioners like Ross Ambrose and Gloria James that the City has reached a state of stability, a posture that is allowing the City to get its legs underneath it. After years of political disarray and infighting, the City is finally beginning to make headway on projects that hold great promise for the City of High Springs and its residents.

This is not the time to pull the rug out from underneath the commission and management. Instead, voters should reelect Gloria James and Ross Ambrose while encouraging them to seek common ground on budget issues, attempt to increase efficiency, and hold themselves and management accountable.

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I am writing in support of Ross Ambrose for High Springs City Commission. First let me say that I have nothing negative to say about his opponent, and I’m grateful that we have wonderful people willing to serve our great little town. That said, I have plenty of positive reasons to support Ross in this election.

I have known Ross for at 15 years as a neighbor and friend in town. Ross showed his commitment to this town for years by serving on city boards before he ever ran for office. He has always taken anything he does seriously and professionally and that goes for the City Commission as well.

Ross makes it his business to understand every issue and the effects of city, county and state law on the issue, and how everything works together. When he makes a decision one way or the other on anything, I expect that he has researched it thoroughly. I feel like I don’t have to understand everything little thing that comes before the city, because he literally does that hard job for us. He has run a successful business for 10 years and he understands fiscal responsibility as well as investment and looking at the big picture to prepare us for the future. 

Perhaps the biggest reason I support Mr. Ambrose is that he is truthful, even when the truth is not what I want to hear. My example is that I emailed him about the proposed Bridlewood subdivision, coming out strongly against it. Like many in High Springs, I love our small town, and the surrounding open spaces. I don’t want the town to be swamped with traffic and see the beauty around us turn into South Florida-style crowding and sprawl. I want to protect the springs at all costs. I would be very happy to see zero new large-scale subdivisions here.

Ross took the time to email me back and carefully explain how the property that was Tillman Acres/proposed Bridlewood was zoned for crazy-dense zoning many years ago, and that the City can’t undo that and could be subject to a lawsuit if we tried. He was hoping to get the most palatable deal out of a bad situation.

He also told me about several other subdivisions: one along U.S.441, one adjacent to Bailey Estates, where the City had refused to allow an up-zoning to higher density for all the same reasons I state above.

I believe Mr. Ambrose wants to preserve the unique character of High Springs, but is also realistic in knowing you have to play the hand you were dealt.

I went to a candidate forum and one of the other candidates said High Springs needs better infrastructure before any new development is allowed. That sounds great but isn’t always possible, for reasons like the one above and the need to find funding for said infrastructure. I know that Ross Ambrose leaves no stone unturned in looking for funding sources aside from local tax revenue. The effort he puts into this job is Herculean.

Frankly I think we are extremely lucky to have such a dedicated, knowledgeable and hard-working commissioner. 

Stacey Breheny

High Springs, Florida

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An election will be held in High Springs on Nov. 7. There are two seats up for election. Since this is an odd-numbered year, the turnout will be poor. Every registered voter in the city needs to read up on the candidates; do the research to see what each is for, and vote.

Things have been running smoothly in the city for some time. Voting for someone merely because they are new is not a good idea.

Ross Ambrose and Gloria James do their homework, are knowledgeable and make decisions for all of High Springs. They are not driven by politics but by what they think is best for the city. For the good of the city, let’s keep them doing what they’ve done so well. Just remember that you need to vote.

Thomas R. Weller

High Springs, Florida

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This letter is to express my support for Steve Tapanes and Andrew Miller for City of High Springs Commissioner.

I have watched several of the commissioner’s meetings on line and have noticed on several occasions that although the audience is jammed with people who are concerned about certain issues, that their concerns seldom make a difference in the decisions made because the decisions appear to have been made prior to the meetings.

I would like to see new blood on the board of commissioners as I feel the incumbents get in a rut and although they claim to have the best interests of the citizens in mind some of them don’t seem to be listening. The newer members seem to be the ones listening.

Steve and Andrew both have businesses in High Springs and I feel their freshness would more closely represent the majority of citizens’ current views.

It’s time for a change, time for the younger generation to have a say in what happens for High Springs’ future. Vote Steve Tapanes and Andrew Miller.

Leah Currier

High Springs, Florida

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The High Springs Chamber of Commerce would like to send a special thank you to all our volunteers and local businesses who gave their time, talents, and treasures to bring our community together for the annual Fall Festival.

Please support these businesses and tell them thank you the next time you see them. Decades on Main & Renee;

Oliver & Dahlman; Thompson Flower Shop; The Birds Nest; High Springs Church of God; LifeSpring Church; Plantation Oaks Assisted Living & Memory Care; Dawn Cross, Photography; McDonald's in Alachua; Ronald McDonald House; Hardee's in High Springs; Hillary Cowart the Magic Man; Line Dancing Debbie; Bryan's Ace Hardware in High Springs; Winn-Dixie in High Springs; Fort White Garden & Produce; Jennifer Lee & Caleb Henderson, The Perfect Home; Troop 69, Boy Scouts; Willard's Restaurant & Lounge; BlueStar Grill; Nancy's Bake Shop; Chantels' Cakery; Station Bakery & Café; Tom & Sue Weller, Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe; High Springs Police Department; Aunt Lydia Springs, Cake; Louanne Rigano, Cake; Vella Miller, Ballon; Don Decker, Trains; Museum for being open during the Fall Festival hours

There are so many who came together to make this year's Fall Festival one our community will cherish for years to come.

I love our quaint little town with all its southern charm.

Sharon Decker

High Springs Chamber of Commerce

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TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) announced today the top toys for the holiday season. According to a survey completed by the National Retail Federation, the most popular toys among both boys and girls are LEGOs and Playstation.

"Floridians and Florida businesses have continued to weather the unforeseeable challenges of 2020," said Scott Shalley, FRF president and CEO. "Florida retailers understand the value this holiday season holds after an especially difficult year. This is why our businesses have invested time and care to implement holiday health protocols and stock up on inventory. Shoppers can remain excited about the holiday season while safely shopping for gifts for their friends and family."

Life has changed drastically since the start of 2020, but in the eyes of children during the holidays, the excitement of new toys have remained the same. Barbies and dolls remain the top toy of choice for girls, while boys are looking forward to Hot Wheels, cars and trucks and video games this holiday season.

The most popular toys for girls and boys, ranked, also include: 


  1. Barbie
  2. Dolls
  3. LOL Surprise Dolls
  4. LEGO
  5. Frozen-related Items
  6. Beauty Products
  7. Apparel/Accessories
  8. Baby Dolls
  9. PlayStation
  10. American Girl


  1. LEGO
  2. Cars and Trucks
  3. Hot Wheels
  4. PlayStation
  5. Video Games
  6. Xbox
  7. Nerf
  8. Nintendo Switch
  9. Marvel Action Figures/Toys & Remote Control Car
  10. Paw Patrol

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect Americans, consumers are looking to ensure their families have a memorable and merry holiday this year. The Florida Retail Federation is asking residents to think and shop local when making holiday purchases. 

"As shoppers plan to spend on gifts in order to lift the spirits of their loved ones, remember to 'Find It In Florida' first," said Shalley. "We ask you to shop at businesses that have a presence here in the Sunshine State and help support the Florida retailers that help Florida jobs, Florida families and Florida's economy." 

The Florida Retail Federation launched the "Find It In Florida" campaign last month to spread public awareness on the importance of shopping locally. When Floridian shoppers  "Find It In Florida" this holiday season, they are helping to keep doors open, boost the local economy and support their communities. 

Florida's retailers began holiday preparations as early to provide ample inventory for shoppers. Their proactive response to the pandemic has also provided consumers with safe access to meet their holiday shopping needs, including safely shopping in stores, curbside pickup and online ordering options.

Another survey shows 42% of consumers began their holiday shopping earlier this year, with 59% reporting they started making purchases in early November. Of those purchases, some of the most popular holiday gifts include: 

  • Clothing and accessories - 54%
  • Gift cards and gift certificates - 49%
  • Toys - 37% 
  • Books and other media - 34% 
  • Food and candy - 28%

Similar to 2019, consumers plan to purchase around three to four gift cards and spend about $163 per consumer this year.

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ALACHUA - COVID-19 cases continue to surge around the country, so this year’s holiday season may be quieter than usual. Gone are the guests, but there are still plenty of seasonal things that can be troublesome for your pets. Human holiday traditions such as food, decorations and plants that may seem harmless can be dangerous and even life-threatening to dogs and cats.  

“Our pets are naturally curious and love new things. The holidays provide a whole new world for them to explore that can lead to a potential illness or injury,” said Erin Katribe, veterinarian and medical director, Best Friends Animal Society. “Since many veterinary offices have limited hours and services during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s crucial to keep your pets as safe as possible, as a trip to the vet won't be as easy as in previous years.” 

As such, Best Friends Animal Society offers the following tips to keep your dogs and cats safe during this holiday season:   

  • Be aware that increased noise and lights can cause stress. If your pet seems agitated, turn down the music or consider placing your pet in a quiet, calm room with dim lighting. 
  • Curb the tendency to give your dog or cat human food. Any change in your pets' diet may give them indigestion, diarrhea or worse. Foods that people should avoid giving their pets include chocolate, grapes, onions, poultry bones, eggnog and fruitcake.  
  • Dispose of food trash in an outside receptable as soon as possible.  
  • Holiday plants such as lilies, holly, mistletoe and poinsettias are known to be toxic to pets and should be kept out of reach. 
  • The water a Christmas tree sits in is a breeding ground for bacteria and can be extremely harmful to pets. Keep water covered with a thick skirt so pets can’t get into it.  
  • Tape electrical cords safely to the wall and make sure that all electrical connections, batteries, and outlets are concealed. 
  • Tinsel, ribbon, metal hooks, plastic and glass can obstruct or perforate the intestine if ingested. Use an alternative such as paper and hang decorations out of reach from your pet. 
  • Quickly dispose of wrapping paper, packages and bows after opening presents and put children’s toys out of reach of pets after playtime to avoid accidental ingestion. 
  • Make sure your pets' identification and microchip are up to date in case anyone inadvertently leaves the door open during your holiday celebration. 

Some symptoms that your pet has become ill and should be taken to a veterinarian quickly include prolonged vomiting (more than three times in a row), dry heaves, a distended abdomen, sudden weakness or inability to stand, respiratory distress, change in gum color and/or seizures.  

“Pet owners should make a plan now in case their pets have an emergency over the holidays,” Katribe said. “Start by researching what veterinary offices will be open in your surrounding area and keep a list of their phone numbers handy to call ahead if your pet shows any symptoms.”

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ALACHUA ‒ As the baby boomer generation rapidly approaches retirement age, the U.S. is projected to experience a radical demographic shift. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about one in five residents in the U.S. will reach retirement age (over 65) by the 2030s. For the first time in U.S. history, seniors will soon outnumber children under 18.

This aging of the population will have far-reaching economic and social ramifications, especially when it comes to healthcare needs. Specifically, diseases that typically affect the elderly will become more prevalent in the U.S. One of the most common illnesses among people over the age of 65 is Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is a neurocognitive disorder that affects a person’s memory. Alzheimer’s typically starts with mild memory loss and sometimes progresses to hindering a person’s speech, thought process, and ability to respond to his/her surroundings. It is an agonizing decline for both the patient and the family as they slowly lose their memory and recognition of their loved ones. The exact cause of the disease is unknown and it currently has no cure.

Currently more than 5 million Americans, accounting for 11 percent of adults suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. The onset of the disease usually occurs after the age of 60, and the risk of Alzheimer’s increases significantly with age. Unlike other medical conditions associated with aging, such as heart attacks, strokes or cancer, the development of Alzheimer’s disease is often a much slower insidious process. But the disease can still result in death. In 2017, more than 120,000 deaths were a result of Alzheimer’s disease. Of these cases, 80,000 were among Americans over the age of 85.

Alzheimer’s effects go far beyond the mortality rate. It's financial burden on society and families of the patient can be devastating. Not only does the disease affect individual patients, but also their family members and taxpayers who fund government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that in 2018, the total cost of treating Alzheimer’s disease—including assisted living facilities, home health care, and other medical treatment—was around $277 billion. The association estimates these costs will more than double by 2035 and continue rising as the 65+ population reaches more than 85 million by 2050.

Florida has the third highest Alzheimer rate in America and affects 13 percent of the 65 or older population. People may live eight to 10 years after diagnosis, with some living as long as 20 years.

For the past 30 years, a nonprofit organization called Compassion & Choices has been working to improve patient rights and individual choice at the end of life, including access to medical aid in dying. Its primary function is advocating for and ensuring access to end-of-life options and allowing the patient to determine whether they want continued medical care in the condition they are in.

The organization provides end-of-life consultation for dying patients and their families at no cost. Professional consultants and trained volunteers work by phone or in person to offer assistance in completing advance directives, make referrals to local services, including Hospice and illness-specific support groups, advice on adequate pain and symptom management, and information on safe, effective and legal methods for aid in dying. But planning for end-of-life care with dementia should happen earlier before a dementia diagnosis, or at the early stages of a diagnosis, before thinking and speaking abilities fail.

Compassion and Choices President/CEO Kim Callinan became an advocate for the organization due to her own experiences. She watched her grandmother slowly lose all cognizant abilities and face critical health issues while prolonging the process through medical intervention. “We didn't recognize that we were simply extending the time because we were refusing to let her go even though she had no idea who we were.” Later she had the opposite experience when her grandfather passed in Hospice with an advanced directive to stop medical care when the conclusion was it would not improve life, but simply extend his suffering. “We were able to be there with him while he could still relate to us as he passed,” Callinan said.

Callinan spent much of her professional career as a communications and social marketing expert but felt that she needed to do something geared more toward helping individuals and families cope with long-term health issues. Her experience with her own family shaped the direction she wanted to go with a nonprofit agency. Five years ago, she joined Compassion and Choices to advocate for letting people choose their own path in the fight against Alzheimer and dementia.

The program allows patients and families to make advanced directives on how they want to control their end of life. Advance planning involves making thoughtful decisions, putting them into a written advance directive, and discussing those decisions with loved ones and healthcare adviser, someone they can trust to advise medical providers about care preferences if the patient is unconscious or mentally incapable of speaking for yourself.

To help families and patients determine what and when to make these critical decisions, Compassion & Choices has developed an online program called Dementia Values & Priorities Tool, to address the reality of the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s.

Through a series of questions, this free online resource helps patients and families identify and document their care preferences in advance of a dementia diagnosis. It then creates a dementia health care directive to attach to an advance directive, so their health care proxy can carry out their personalized care plan.

Creating a dementia-specific advance care plan lifts the burden off of loved ones or patients to make difficult decisions when they can no longer speak for themselves. It helps people determine their healthcare wishes in advance, should they be diagnosed with dementia and allows people with dementia to stop medical treatment if they want, so they can die naturally if that is their wish.

A second online tool is the Dementia Decoder which allows patients and caregivers the ability to generate specific questions for doctors, nurses or other health providers. The questions are designed to get them the complete information they need to deal with Alzheimer’s. This tool also addresses other fatal illnesses like cancer so the patient can be fully informed on their condition.

“Our goal is to provide information that most people would not know how to address and to control their own end of life decisions and not prolong their suffering,” Callinan said. Information on both these tools can be found at the organizations website at:

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TALLAHASSEE — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced $50 million for more than 20 statewide springs restoration projects to aid the recovery and provide additional protection for Florida’s springs. These projects work in concert with increased monitoring, enforcement, and other measures to ensure compliance with best management practices implemented under the Governor’s leadership to improve water quality across the state.

“Florida’s springs are integral to both our economy and environment,” said Governor DeSantis. “Our state is home to more large springs than any other state in the nation and they serve as a fun source of recreation for our residents and visitors to enjoy. The projects announced today continue our mission to restore and protect our water quality throughout Florida.”

“Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ leadership, DEP is engaged in a broad suite of water quality improvement efforts across the state,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “Of particular importance to the state are those projects tied to springs restoration. This diverse selection of projects will be complemented and enhanced by Department initiatives to increase facility inspections, water quality monitoring, and enforcement.

“Florida’s springs are among our most precious water resources,” said Chief Science Officer Dr. Tom Frazer. “They reflect the quality of our drinking water and nourish some of the most iconic surface waters in the state. The projects announced by Governor DeSantis today are intended to increase spring flows and improve water quality so that these springs systems and the resources that they support can be accessed and enjoyed by generations to come.”

Springs provide a window into Florida’s vast groundwater system and are a barometer of the condition of the state’s primary source of drinking water. DEP and four Florida water management districts have identified a broad suite of projects that include land acquisition, septic to sewer conversion, and water quality improvement efforts, intended to increase aquifer recharge, improve spring flow, and protect downstream habitats all the way to the coast.

Many of the projects will benefit ongoing restoration efforts in springsheds. These restoration efforts reflect a collaborative effort with the department, water management districts, community leaders and local stakeholders. The contributions and cooperation of these agencies and individuals have been crucial throughout the development process. Combining and leveraging resources from various agencies across Florida allows for a more efficient and comprehensive restoration effort.

The more than 20 statewide springs projects include:

Northwest Florida Water Management District:

  • $1.1 million to extend central sewer service to the Tara Estates neighborhood located north of Marianna, including abandoning septic tanks proximate to the Chipola River.

 “We are so excited to help carry forward Governor DeSantis and DEP’s unparalleled commitment to the long-term improvement and protection of Florida’s priceless springs and other water resources,” said Brett Cyphers, Executive Director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District. “The district, like the governor, is focused on tangible solutions and we are grateful for the opportunity to help deliver results.”

Southwest Florida Water Management District: 

  • A total of more than $8.3 million for projects in Marion County that will help protect Rainbow Springs, including Burkitt Road Septic to Sewer, Northwest Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion, Oak Bend I-75 Water Quality Improvement and the 180th Avenue Package Plant Abatement. 

“Improving our five first-magnitude springs is a top priority for our District,” said Brian Armstrong, Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. “Thanks to the ongoing financial support from the Governor, the Legislature and DEP for springs restoration, we are launching a new initiative to fund septic to sewer conversion projects that will reduce nutrients and improve the health of our springs.”

St. Johns River Water Management District 

  • $1.1 million for the Apopka West Reuse Storage Facility and Reclaimed Water Extension projectthat will provide nearly 3.48 million gallons per day of reclaimed water, benefiting Wekiwa and Rock springs.

“Protecting Florida’s springs is among our state’s highest environmental priorities,” said Dr. Ann Shortelle, Executive Director of the St. Johns River Water Management District. “The Governor’s increased focus is providing historic levels of funding to bolster district and local funds and enhancing our joint environmental initiatives. We are also grateful for FDEP’s commitment to helping us fund projects improving the health of Florida’s springs and their ecosystems.”

Suwannee River Water Management District

  • A total of more than $2.3 million for the acquisition of more than 3,600 acres of land to protect springs in Columbia County Grasslands (Ichetucknee Springs), Devil's Ear Springs Recharge (Ginnie Springs Group), Santa Fe Springs and Sawdust Spring (Sawdust and Devil's Ear springs). The acquisition of these lands will help improve aquifer recharge potential, enhance recreational opportunities and protect native species.

“As Florida’s Springs Heartland, it is critical for us to focus on the health of our springs and connect with our community partners to accomplish that effort. Funding these projects will help protect and restore our natural systems,” said Hugh Thomas, Executive Director of the Suwannee River Water Management District. “Thank you to Governor DeSantis, the Legislature and Florida Department of Environmental Protection for leading this initiative to protect our water resources.”

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