New, improved Poe Springs might cost visitors more

Poe Springs in Alachua County, Florida
Poe Springs in Alachua County, Florida

When Poe Springs reopens on Memorial Day, visitors might be paying a little extra to get in.

At the Alachua Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) budget meeting on Tuesday, Jason Maurer, Parks and Open Space manager for Alachua County, said looking for more revenue from county parks is a priority.

One idea, Maurer suggested, is renting out park pavilions using recreational software, especially those adjacent to splash pads.

“It’s a small cost that will cover administrative fees and provide small revenue,” he said.

Maurer brought up the current $5 per car fee at Poe Springs and posed questions to the board about considering an increase in that fee, and also charging walk-in guests and those arriving by bicycle an entry fee as well.

Currently, privately owned Ginnie Springs charges $20 per adult, while Florida State Parks such as Ichetucknee and Fanning Springs charge $6 per vehicle.

“If you come in and just want to boat, you’re not paying a fee. If you walk in, you’re not paying a fee,” Maurer said about the current policy at Poe Springs.

He asked the BOCC if costs should be increased.

Commissioner Mary Alford said collecting a fee for access to boating is acceptable because it helps maintain the parking lots, but she was concerned that the regular entry fee should stay affordable for all residents.

In 2019, Poe Springs parking fees brought in $45,000, a camp run during Gator Nationals brought in $33,000, and the concessions stands brought in $34,500, Maurer reported.

Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler said if a vehicle is being brought onto the property, they should pay because they impact the property roadways and parking lots. But she opposed the idea of charging walk-ins and bicyclists.

Since boat ramps and springs are a draw for people coming from outside of Alachua County, Commissioner Anna Prizzia said she agreed with looking at the price structuring: “Taxpayer dollars pay for the parks, however, enhancements warrant fees.”

Assistant County Manager Gina Peebles said when the park reopens on Memorial Day, visitors will notice some improvements.

“The boardwalk with a canoe launch should be 100 percent completed,” she said.

Next week Peebles will request that the BOCC approve a return to full operational status at Poe Springs, after the pandemic sparked a reduction in both days and capacity.

“We will keep an eye on congregating in family groups with social distancing,” Peebles said.

Her request will be for opening Poe Springs for seven days a week at full capacity, which will double the amount of cars allowed in.

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