Advocate says Citizens for Holding Ginnie Springs Accountable group is making progress

Ginnie Springs sign
Ginnie Springs sign
Photo by Suzette Cook

 Gilchrist County neighbors of Ginnie Springs Outdoors campground say that problems with pollution, loud music, drugs, alcohol, strangers wandering onto their properties and traffic jams blocking roads have been going on for years, but a recent push from those citizens to hold the privately owned recreation destination is growing.
The Facebook group Citizens for Holding Ginnie Springs Accountable was launched by resident Nicole Ashley on July 27th after a weekend-long DJ event featuring EDM (electronic dance music) that drew hundreds of fans from as far away as Miami and Savannah, Georgia.
Even though the Gilchrist County noise ordinance cuts off loud music at 10 p.m., Ginnie Springs says on its website rules for campers that the cutoff is Midnight.
In order to get help with the situation, Ashley launched the group and encourage other residents to “Invite everyone you know who lives in the area close to Ginnie, or in Gilchrist, or your family and friends. We have to build this group up and come together to make some NOISE of our own!.”
That group started a conversation comparing notes on the negative impact that crowds drawn to Ginnie Springs are having on them. From RVs dumping sewage tanks roadside, to thousands of bottles, cans, garbage, diapers ending up in the river and spring system every weekend and lines of cars blocking driveways and roadways.
A search on TripAdvisor, a travel experience review platform reveals a range of comments about visitors’ experiences at Ginnie Springs Outdoors, there is a range of reviews with many confirming that the complaints from neighbors are not exaggerated. 
One August 2020 post from Carlos P reads, “Amazing place for snorkeling, scuba diving, camping, or just to get out of the city. Stay away from spring break or any other date that may have students from nearby areas coming here. The place gets very crowded and may not be the appropriate place to have your kids around. Staff is extremely friendly, camping areas are very well distributed with water and electric hook ups. Definitely a gem in Florida.”
“Good luck with corona,” reads another review from Alban. “I have never seen a place so packed. There were so many people with no mask I had to leave right away after paying $60 for 3 people. Better to be safe than sorry. If police on site don’t do anything nobody else can do. A money-making $20 per head. Maybe 5,000 people during the day in and out. 3% have the virus that will contaminate 3 people…. 1000 will be contaminated and 150 people will die. It’s a free zone to choose with yourself, your conscience, your life and God….
Lawrence W from Dothan, Alabama wrote Aug. 7th, “If you’re looking for kid friendly quiet camping stay away Florida has state parks with springs that are nicer. Side by sides, golf.carts speed around without a care half have super loud car radios in them. To say loud music is an understatement. We are not talking about a little boom box or bluetooth speaker it’s full on professional concert speakers loud as hell! Drinking and smoking weed all over. This was during the week security told me the weekend is worse and they are told to look away, people have fun who cars if your rv is rattling from bass at 2 am!! Bathrooms are disgusting no social distancing when renting equipment I doubt they even sanitize the stuff. People rope off whole areas make their own party city generators all night. Its spring break all the time if you want to drink and party no care for others its your place. If you’re looking for a traditional campground run!”

Eddy Scott

Citizen Eddy Scott, a member of the citizens groups and outspoken advocate of protecting the integrity of the springs and life in a rural town, attended the Aug. 10th Gilchrist County Commission meeting to address the board and local law enforcement with the list of concerns.
The commission assured Scott that they are listening to the concerns and urged that residents reach out to the Board instead of just airing complaints on social media.
Since that meeting where local law enforcement acknowledged that traffic on weekends and holidays has been an issue, Scott has been meeting with the sheriff and other officials to keep followup on the status of the citizens’ concerns.
Scott then reports back to the lamost 900 people who are part of the Facebook group.
On Aug. 27th Scott reported, “Had a good phone conversation with Chris Wynn of FWC (Regional Operations Director for North Central Fla). I gave him the basics of what our group’s concerns were and highlighted those I felt FWC may have some control over. For example, officers witnessing litter or trespassing and issuing citations. I asked that they have a presence on the Santa Fe in the vicinity of Ginnie Springs on Weekends and Holidays during peak hours of use. He said he would pass this information on and that they would try to increase FWC patrols in the area of Ginnie.”
Scott also reported on his discussions with law enforcement.
“Just had a long conversation with Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz,” he reported on Aug. 27th. “Discussed all our issues, some in great detail. He hasn’t been pleased with how things have been going  with regards to issues at Ginnie. Stated his job is to uphold State law and county ordinances. And wanted me to know he’s listening and does not take our concerns lightly. He likes that our group has suggested proposed solutions rather than just  complaining but reiterated that if anyone has an issue or complaint to call him or his office. He liked our suggested change to the county noise ordinance (remove the requirement to give a warning prior to issuing a citation). He also wants to do a better job letting his folks know how calls should be handled specifically in regards to the noise issue. Currently Ginnie hires two law enforcement officers for peak days and special events if officers are available. Typically these officers don’t patrol Ginnie property and only there is a call. As unfortunately there aren’t enough officers to patrol the volume of people present in that type of environment (guidelines are typically 1 officer per 250 to 300 people). He is hopeful that if enough pressure comes to bare from groups like ours, officers, and officials of the county and the state that Ginnie will at least implement some changes that will make it a better neighbor and steward of the environment. Me too!”
Mainstreet Daily News continues to reach out via phone and email to interview the owners or management of Ginnie Springs but does not receive any communication in return.

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