Construction at Poe Springs Park is at a standstill due to permit issues.  The park consists of 202 acres, and is located three miles west of High Springs on County Road 340 along the banks of the Santa Fe River.

HIGH SPRINGS – With an agreement for the City of High Springs to assume management of nearby Poe Springs Park all but signed, construction delays may jeopardize the takeover.

An impending agreement that would transfer management of the park to the city was nearly finalized by the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on March 13 when High Springs Vice Mayor Bob Barnas alerted County Commissioners that his city did not wish to assume management of the park while construction at the springs was incomplete.

High Springs commissioners later agreed during a March 20 meeting that they didn’t want the city to start running the park while construction was ongoing.  The commission directed City Manager Jeri Langman to draft and send a letter to Alachua County informing them that if construction exceeded 30 days, the city might consider backing out of the agreement.

City commissioners were concerned that lingering construction would limit the full use of the park, most notably the spring itself, where a project is underway to rebuild the steps leading into the water.  The spring is currently closed due to the construction, meaning what many people consider to be the park’s hallmark feature is unusable to the public.

Alachua County officials now say the steps restoration project at Poe Springs may not be completed until the beginning of May, or even later due to a permit delay.

Alachua County Parks Superintendent Rob Avery said the contractor performing the reconstruction originally had until the end of April or beginning of May to complete the project.  Excavation of the existing steps was well underway when work was halted until a required permit was obtained.  It has been three weeks since construction was unexpectedly stopped.

Avery said the County has been informed verbally that the permit has been approved, although it was not yet in hand as of March 28.  He remained hopeful that the private contractor conducting the work would be able to complete it, at or near the original deadline.

Even if the reconstruction is completed by May 1, it places it well beyond the 30-day window set by High Springs commissioners, many of whom knew nothing of the construction until a private citizen mentioned it at a March 10 town hall meeting.

High Springs city officials said Wednesday that Barnas had been communicating with Alachua County officials about the delays although no specific information was provided.  Barnas could not be reached for comment.

Terms of the pending agreement, which is currently awaiting a more definitive date on construction completion, include an initial one-year period, which can be renewed.

According to the arrangement, the City of High Springs would take charge of the daily staffing and maintenance of the park while the county would review fees, plans, and events at the park. The county would further take charge of larger upkeep such as mowing and building repairs.

Under the latest draft of the agreement, the park would be open Wednesday through Sunday, with Wednesday and Thursday being free admission days. On weekends, High Springs would charge $5 to $8 per vehicle, and $2 for individuals.  High Springs has proposed to offer annual passes to local families and individuals.

The agreement states that after the city recovers its costs of managing the park through entrance fees, additional revenue will be split between Alachua County and the City of High Springs.