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NEWBERRY – This year marks Newberry’s 125th year, or quasquicentennial year, of incorporation as a city. To celebrate the milestone, the City of Newberry has adopted the motto “125 years at Home,” announced Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe during the Jan. 13 City Commission meeting.

“Throughout the year we will commemorate the quasquicentennial by highlighting it in our local events such as the State of the City Address [which is the kick off to the quasquicentennial year], WestFest, the Watermelon Festival and the Fall Festival,” said Marlowe as a preliminary to reading the related proclamation.

“Whereas, in our 125 years, Newberry’s citizens have worked with dedication and resolve to build a community of farming and family values while adapting to the many changes that come with a growing city; and Whereas, Newberry has embraced new residents who are as diverse as the world is wide but are committed to making this community, our community, successful in every way; and Now, therefore I, Jordan Marlowe, Mayor of the City of Newberry, Florida, do hereby proclaim in commemoration of the 125th anniversary, 2020 as our Quasquicentennial Year!”

He said that the organizational group working to develop appropriate celebration activities is comprised of diverse Newberry interest groups and residents. Included are representatives from the Newberry Lions Club, Main Street Organization, Dudley Farms, the Watermelon Festival Committee, the Newberry Garden Club, Concerned Citizens of Newberry, the Newberry-Jonesville Chamber of Commerce, the City Commission and various City staff.

At the completion of Marlowe’s announcement, he presented Commissioner Matt Hersom with a copy of the full proclamation in recognition of Hersom’s chairmanship of the Quasquicentennial Committee.

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ALACHUA COUNTY — A one-car crash on Interstate 75, half-way between Gainesville and Alachua, resulted in the death of a passenger and the critical injury of the driver. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers were called to the vicinity of northbound I-75 and mile marker 395 at 4:34 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

A 2001 Ford F250, driven by 79-year-old Willard Crowder of Greenville, Florida, had been traveling north on I-75. Near the 395 mile marker, Crowder lost control of his truck, which traveled onto the east shoulder and collided with a tree.

Following the crash, the truck erupted into fire. Crowder was able to escape, but his passenger, 82-year-old Lee Bishop of Lee, Florida, was not. Bishop was pronounced dead at the scene.

Crowder was transported to UF-Health Shands in critical condition.

It is unknown whether either the driver or passenger were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. According to the FHP, alcohol was not suspected as a factor in this incident.

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ALACHUA — Over 80 years ago, in 1931, members of the local community in Alachua decided to join a charity and service organization known as the Lions Club. The organization had been founded in 1917 near the end of World War I when Chicago businessman Melvin Jones formed a club to address the social and health issues in society. Starting with his local business club, Jones told members that they should reach beyond business issues and address the betterment of their communities and the world. He then contacted other similar groups throughout the United States, convincing them to combine their efforts to make a larger impact.

The new club established their main duty as "unselfish service to others." Within three years, they had over 6,400 members in the U.S. and Canada. While their service was directed toward helping their local communities, they also addressed diseases and social issues on a more global scale. Their efforts focused on several particular areas of service. Over the years, they added other global causes and now work on issues involving diabetes, childhood cancer, hunger and environmental issues. Today, the organization has grown to more than 1.4 million members in 200 countries.

Although Alachua was not the first Lions Club Chapter in Florida, it was one of the earliest when several businessmen decided to follow the tenants of the Lions in 1931. However, there were no national records to verify the club as officially part of the organization. In December 1939, the local club notified the Lions Club that they were disbanding. But only a month later they contacted the national organization to petition to join the Lion's Club officially, and that became the official start date for the Alachua chapter.

The Alachua Lions Club is now celebrating 80 years of serving the local community including sponsoring Boy Scout Troop 88 for over 80 years. The Lions Club provides the clubhouse and financial assistance to the troop so that anyone who wishes to be a scout can participate. The club also provides their adjacent property for the downtown baseball fields, tennis courts and basketball courts to the youth of the community. Each year the Lions also provide two Santa Fe High School students with a two-year college scholarship.

In relation to the goals of Lions Club International, the local chapter provides eye screenings, glasses and/or eye surgeries to anyone who qualifies. They also provide free diabetes screening and assistance to anyone needing hearing aids.

On Jan. 23, 2020, Alachua Lions club members held an anniversary dinner to celebrate their 80 years of service to the community of Alachua and as a part of Lions International to the worldwide community. Past International Director Stacey Jones served as keynote speaker with District Governor Buddy Wells bringing congratulations from District 35-L. They were also presented with a Proclamation from the City of Alachua, which was presented to the club by Alachua Mayor and Lion Gib Coerper.

Alachua Lions also host the oldest continuous fundraising event, the Cattlemen’s Banquet, which they have sponsored since they started. On March 24, 2020, they will have their 81st Cattlemen’s Banquet with an expected 450 people in attendance. The event will be held at Alan Hitchcock's Santa Fe River Ranch at Valley View.  

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HIGH SPRINGS – On Jan. 23, the High Springs City Commission weighed the pros and cons of the letter produced by the city attorney regarding the Seven Springs’ renewal permit request to increase the allowable amount of water withdrawn from their wells. The discussion lasted more than an hour and resulted in the Commission directing the attorney to go back to the drawing board.

Commission concern stemmed from the observation that the letter only represented the citizens against the permit renewal and made no mention of those area citizens who spoke on behalf of issuing the permit during the previous Commission meeting.

As part of the lengthy discussion, Commissioner Nancy Levin remarked about the thoroughness of the minutes from the previous meeting. In an effort to represent both sides of the comments heard during that meeting, commissioners agreed to keep the next letter short, but to refer members of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) and their Governing Board to those minutes rather than try to incorporate the detailed comments into a letter.

Rather than advocating for or against the application, the letter will be written in such a way as to remind SRWMD members of the importance of the health of area springs and rivers to surrounding communities. Commissioners directed the attorney to suggest that the water management district should be mindful of the relationship between the health of the springs and the economic health of the surrounding communities while also considering the overall use of that water.

Commissioner Scott Jamison strongly suggested that the letter reflect the belief that the permit, if issued, should be for the amount of water that has been extracted in the past, rather than the amount of water Seven Springs wishes to extract. Other Commissioners seemed to agree.

The proposed permit renewal, if approved, would allow for an increase in water withdrawal from 270,000 gallons per day, which is what has been taken in the past, to 1.152 million gallons per day

Additional concerns expressed by citizens and commissioners involved increased truck traffic if increased production was to be approved as well as the damage that could result to the roadways.

In addition to those area citizens who previously expressed concern that they may lose their jobs should the permit not be granted, another issue was brought up by Jamison.

He expressed concern that the nearly 100 acres now being managed by Nestle in a natural state would be sold should the plant close. “It’s a matter of economics,” he said. “If the land is sold, it would probably be to a developer who will build on that property and could end up sending more contaminants into the water.”

Following those comments, the city attorney agreed to rewrite the letter to Virginia Johns, Chair of the SRWMD Governing Board, and bring it back to the next meeting for Commission approval.

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NEWBERRY – Football was at the top of the list Newberry City Commissioners were grateful for at the Dec. 9 Commission meeting. Newberry High School football coach Ed Johnson was honored at the top of the meeting after being named Alachua County High School Football Coach of the Year by the Gainesville Quarterback Club.

The club is “the Oldest Gator Booster Club in the World,” said Mayor Jordan Marlowe as part of his presentation. The award is decided among all the high school programs in the county and is based on the regular season accomplishments.

Nominations are provided to the Gainesville Quarterback Club after the final game of the regular season. “This is the second year they have recognized the efforts of Alachua County’s hard-working football coaches,” Marlowe said.

Coach Johnson is a Newberry High School 2001 graduate and football alumnus. He began his coaching career in 2006 at Oak Hall School, where he spent eight years. During that time, Johnson continued to work with Newberry students at Oak View Middle School as well. He returned to Newberry as a baseball team assistant coach, junior varsity basketball coach and varsity basketball coach.

Johnson led his team to a 9-1 regular season record, which Marlowe characterized as “an amazing turnaround from 2018’s 1-9 record.”

In addition to Johnson, the entire Newberry High School Varsity Football Team was also on hand to receive a commendation for their team from the Newberry City Commissioners.

In presenting the plaque to the team, Marlowe said, “The team represented themselves, their parents and the school with poise, good sportsmanship and a sense of fair play. The athletes demonstrated hard work, both on and off the field.”

In addition, Marlowe commented on how well they displayed respect to the other teams for their hard work. “We wish the 18 seniors good luck in all future endeavors. We will miss you next year, but know you are doing well and enjoying life after high school, whatever path you may choose.”

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HIGH SPRINGS – Six miles north of High Springs on U.S. Highway 441 is a unique state park called O’Leno. The park was one of Florida’s first state parks, originally opened in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps who built log cabins and a suspension bridge that crosses the river.

Located along the banks of the Santa Fe River, which is a tributary of the Suwannee River, the park covers over 6,000 acres and features sinkholes, hardwood hammocks, river swamps and sand hills. It features hiking and biking trails, canoeing, fishing, picnic facilities and camping. Overnight visitors can stay at 61 RV sites, primitive tent camping or, if booked far enough in advance, one of the 17 log cabins near the river.

Santa Fe River Flows Underground

What makes the park unique is that the Santa Fe River suddenly disappears, traveling three miles underground to resurface at River Rise Park. Visitors can walk a shaded trail along the river bank and then cross over to the other side on the three-mile land bridge. This natural bridge has served as a crossroads between east and west Florida for centuries.

Native American trails converged at this land bridge that provided a dry crossing of the Santa Fe River. When the Spanish occupied Florida in 1513 they built a line of missions between Saint Marks and Saint Augustine and made use of the same native trails, renaming the route “el Camino Real,” the Royal Road.

The road fell into disuse in the late1700s as Spanish influence waned. Between raids from the French and English, Indian raids, and disease, the native population declined and the missions and settlements were abandoned. Florida became a liability for Spain and in 1819 they ceded the territory to the United States. As settlers moved in, the federal government provided money for a road across the upper part of the state and tasked the Army with creating it. John Bellamy, who was a wealthy plantation owner, was contracted to create the eastern part, and Bellamy Road was created.

Keno – The Original O’Leno

It was only fitting that a town would be built along the banks of the nearby river. A pioneer town was started by 1840 by a man named Henry Matier. The town was referred to as Keno, which was a common gambling game at the time. As the town of Keno grew, the main livelihood was the mills, which were powered by the river. Two grist mills, six cotton gins and one cotton seed oil gin with a circular saw mill for lumber were in operation. A dry kiln, the only one of its kind in the area, was also in use.

By the 1870s Keno had a general merchandise store, owned and operated by a well-known proprietor by the name of Colonel George M. Whetson. Some say Whetston called the town Keno because he considered it to be a risky business venture. The town also had a large hotel with a door on all four sides. It also had a restaurant, livery stable, blacksmith, doctor and general store. In 1876, Colonel Whetson applied for a post office for the town of Keno. The postal department denied the request due to the name Keno meaning gambling, so Whetston then changed the name to Leno to justify that it was a decent town. The post office was put upstairs above the general store, along with the telegraph office. In 1890, Colonel Whetston moved the post office to the sister town of Mikesville, three miles away.

Florida Forest Service

In 1894, there was a rumor that a railroad from Alligator, today’s Lake City, was going to come through the area of Leno. However, the train bypassed the town and went to Fort White instead. This spelled the end for the town and the people of Leno moved on to other communities in the area. The last record of the town of Leno was in 1896. Although the town was no longer inhabited, the area remained a popular place for residents of nearby towns to gather for picnics and swimming. It was often referred to as “Old Leno,” which was eventually shortened to O’Leno, the name still used today.

In 1935, the Florida Forest Service purchased the property where the town had been located. During the Great Depression, workers under the federal Work Progress Administration (WPA), with help from Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), developed the area for a forest service training camp, building roads, cabins, the suspension bridge and other buildings. Camp O’Leno opened in 1938 as a Florida Forest Service training camp. It became a state park in 1940, and was one of the original nine state parks in the Florida Park Service.

Most of the buildings on the site date back to that time period with additional trails and camping sites added later. The true beauty of the park is the diversity of environments and the differences each season brings. The park is open 365 days a year from 8 a.m. until sundown. Entry fee for day visits is $5. For more information or camping reservations call 386-454-1853.

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Special to Alachua County Today

ALACHUA – Turkey Creek Golf has announced its association with the Gator Junior Golf Association.

Gator Junior Golf is a 501(c)3 non-profit youth-development program that focuses on growing life skills through the game of golf.

Classes begin Saturday, Feb. 8 and run most Saturdays through May 2 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. The lead instructor is John Stevens. Learn about putting, chipping, and full swing, along with life skills in a fun, safe, and interactive environment.

The cost is $150 per student. The classes will take place at the new “Expanded Practice Facility at Turkey Creek Golf Course,” located on U.S. Highway 441 between Gainesville and the city of Alachua.

Come and bring your future golfer. The 19th Hole Restaurant, at Turkey Creek Golf Course, is an excellent place to wait while enjoying a variety of refreshments in a comfortable setting

Contact information for Gator Junior Golf is phone 352-575-0636, or www.gatorjuniorgolf.org/signup, or by emailing gatorjuniorgolfassociation@gmail.com.

The contact information for Turkey Creek Golf is 386-518-6815 or info@turkeycreekgolf.net.

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