Fresh sand in the volleyball courts, new ADA compliant sidewalks and a heightened 8-foot wide pathway leading to Poe Springs are some of the improvements visitors will see when the gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday.
According to Alachua County Parks and Open Space manager Jason Maurer, that new boardwalk at Poe Springs Park has been raised and he is expecting more finishing touches to be added. The springs portion of the park closed in September 2020 for renovations, but the boat ramp has remained open.
"We'll be adding educational signs and a historical marker of Hurricane Irma levels," Maurer said about the half-mile hike to the water.
A second pathway to the springs has been eliminated so it's one way in and one way out. Along the boardwalk there are several 18-foot wide viewing areas that will eventually have benches.
The new rates for admission are $6 per vehicle and $1 entry fee for visitors walking or riding a bicycle into the park.
The county has added the services of Anderson's Outdoor Adventures (AOA), which not only rent kayaks, canoes and tubes, but will drop off and pick up boaters at various locations. AOA is the outfitter and food concessions contractor with other local springs including Manatee, Hart, Blue and Fanning Springs plus the Santa Fe River Park.
AOA co-owner Paul Spillers was interviewing for concessions staff at the park on Wednesday, just in time for the season opening on Saturday.
The Poe Springs hours of operation will be daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Spillers said he is waiting for inspections to get the food service up and running, but he's planning on offering drinks and snacks on opening weekend and in the future he'll stoke up the grill for barbecue dinners.
The pick up and drop-off services for tube and watercraft will operate from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily to and from the Highway 27 bridge. "The trip itself is 2 to 3 hours," Spillers said about floating from the drop off to the boat ramp at Poe Springs.
There will be $9 rentals of tubes that visitors can use to float in the springs or float down the river to the boat ramp and repeat that trip as many times as tube renters want.
Temperatures are predicted to hit the low 90s throughout the weekend and Maurer said he expects the 120 parking spots to fill up fast. He added that, "The park will start taking credit card payment for the entry fee this season for the first time."