January 25, 2015
Silver Springs

Runoff from fertilizer and septic waste has caused Silver Springs to become murky. There are 90% fewer fish than in the 1950s.

Photo: Craig Pittman/Tampa Bay Times

Silver Springs

Glass-bottom boat on Silver Springs

Photo: Paul J. Milette/Palm Beach Post/ZUMAPRESS.com

Florida's Environment

Spring woes in Florida

Lilly Rockwell | 6/20/2013

Silver Springs was Florida's first tourist attraction, drawing visitors since before the Civil War. The preferable way to enjoy the springs was aboard glass-bottom boats. Over time, the 242-acre springs near Ocala evolved into a small amusement park, with reptile and animal exhibits, a concert stage, petting zoos, a 40-passenger carousel and a gift shop.

"Silver Springs was the park to come to in the state of Florida before Disney came in," says Silver Springs spokesman Brooks Jordan.

But construction of homes and roads nearby as well as farms has left the springs ailing. Runoff from fertilizer and septic waste carries nitrate pollution into the springs and has fueled the growth of brown algae. The flow of water into the springs has dramatically slowed, and there are 90% fewer fish than in the 1950s, according to a study of the springs.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the profit margin for Palace Entertainment, the park’s operators, has dropped from 23.5% to 5.3%. As a result, Palace is ending its 20-year agreement to manage the park. The company will spend $4 million to improve the park before the state takes over management
beginning Oct 1.

Gone will be the animals, safari rides and carousel. Ross Allen Island, a popular fixture at the springs since 1929, has lost its signature reptile shows, and its buildings will be demolished. The parking lot, which is located close to the springhead and sends polluted stormwater into the springs, will be removed and a new one placed farther away.

Still, some environmental groups and nearby residents remain concerned about whether the state’s efforts will be enough to restore the springs’ health. A proposed 25,000-acre cattle ranch called Adena Springs Ranch has asked the St. Johns River Water Management District for permission to pump 5.3 million gallons of water a day from the same aquifer that supplies the springs. The district has yet to decide on the request, asking for more information from the developer, Austrian billionaire Frank Stronach.

Tags: Northeast, Environment

Digital Access

DIRECT DIGITAL ACCESS
Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single ditgital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.

ACCESS THIS ISSUE »

Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Google wants to be your phone company
Google wants to be your phone company

New reports suggest that Google is teaming up with Sprint and T-Mobile to offer wireless service directly to customers.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

What would make you willing to change your cellular phone service?

  • Lower price per month
  • More data / faster service
  • Great deal on a better phone
  • Nothing, because the fee to break contract is too high
  • Nothing. I am quite happy with my current plan.

See Results

Ballot Box
Subscribe