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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs is buying a popular local recreation area and its facilities. Commissioners approved the $600,000 acquisition of Canoe Outpost, which is located on the Santa Fe River during their Aug. 12 meeting. The business, currently owned by Jim and Sally Wood, offers ecotourism adventures along the river, ranging from canoeing and kayaking to overnight paddling and camping.

Anticipated upgrades to bathrooms, the pathway, the dock and signage are anticipated to cost $150,000 more bringing the all-in price tag to $750,000.

Funds for the purchase are coming from a number of different sources. A $175,000 payment is coming from Alachua County Trust, $150,000 from Wild Spaces Public Places funds and approximately $425,000 will be financed from 5 – 10 years by PFM Financial Group, which the City hopes will be paid by potential grant opportunities and future Wild Spaces Public Places funds.

Potential funding sources discussed included Florida Communities Trust, which may help with the acquisition itself. State funds through the Florida Forever Program may be available during the 2022 or 2023 fiscal years. If available, those funds may be available at a one-to-one match based on the sale price.

The Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) is another competitive program that provides grants for acquisition or development of land for public outdoor recreation. Although the grants are capped at $50,000, grant funds may be useful to help pay for the improvements needed at the Canoe Outpost. The Federal Cares Act has grant funding for tourism and recreation development at $240 million, which is available to help boost the tourism industry in Florida that has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Requests for Proposals for someone to manage the facility are anticipated to be out prior to the final closing date of Oct. 29, 2021. High Sprigs City Attorney Scott Walker said it is likely that the agreement will be closed upon prior to that date depending on the financing. However, one thing that was made clear was that there is no plan to close the facility during the transition. Owner Jim Woods will also be on hand to advise the new management as soon as the property is closed upon and the transition takes place.

In other business, Commissioners unanimously approved awarding a bid to construct a 12-inch water well to a local company, SGS Contracting Services, Inc., for $667,700. The City received one bid for this project, but Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham said the company met all of the criteria for approval according to the City’s engineers.

Gillingham estimates it will take five months to obtain the wellhead and eight months to a year to complete the project based on the availability of the parts. With the approval of this bid, Gillingham hopes to have the financing in place by the next meeting. Between the financing and the water rates, he anticipates that will cover the cost of the project.

The High Springs Community School will be doubling the number of its Student Resource Officers now that the school has exceeded 1,000 students. High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard said the school will now require two officers because of the increase in student admissions. An agreement with the School Board to pay $120,000 as its share of funding for the 2021-22 school year was unanimously approved by Commissioners which will fund the two officers. Sheppard said he had one officer from Gainesville and one from south Florida, that he was planning to put into that school.

Sheppard also presented an agreement with the school board to provide a School Resource Officer for Christian Academy. The agreement stipulates $46,071 as its share of funding for the 2021-22 school year. Commissioners unanimously approved this agreement as well.

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