Opening: J.H. Anderson Jr. Park at Rock Bluff Springs, Suwannee River 2019-05-31

Second magnitude Rock Bluff Springs has been accessible only by boat up its 700-foot run from the Suwannee River, but SRWMD has acquired 175 acres around the spring that is opening as J.H. Anderson Jr. Park, at the end of this month.

When: 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM, Friday, May 31, 2019
10:30 AM – Opening Ceremony & Ribbon Cutting
11:30 AM – Guided Hikes, Swimming, & Plant Walks followed by refreshments

Where: 6560 Co Rd 340, Bell, FL 32619

Event: facebook

[Photo: Edwin McCook]
Photo: Edwin McCook, of Rock Bluff Springs, in SRWMD Tentative Budget, Fiscal Year 2018-2019.

This new park and Rock Bluff Springs are in the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail (SRWT), and the park is now on our WWALS SRWT Map and on our map of all landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

To find maps of this new J.H. Anderson Jr. Memorial Park, I looked in some older working documents, including SRWMD’s 2018-2019 budget, which also says:

1. DEP Springs Protection and Restoration Grants FY 2017-18

During the 2017 legislative session, the Legislature appropriated funding to DEP to distribute to the Districts and local governments to implement projects benefiting springs. DEP will invest $16,162,404 in eight springs projects in the District utilizing state FY 2017-18 legislative appropriations. Four of the springs projects have contracts directly with the DEP and the applicable local government and are not discussed below. Below are the project accomplishments and what is anticipated to occur during the remainder of FY 2017-18….

10. Acquisition, Restoration, and Public Works

Land Acquisition

During December 2017, the District acquired Rock Bluff Springs, consisting of 169 +/- acres located in Gilchrist County….

According to Gilchrist County Property Appraiser, SRWMD paid $2,891,800 to Rock Bluff Springs Co. LLC in 19 December 2017.

Back in the SRWMD budget:

Land Management

The District anticipates entering into a public-private partnership with the Alachua Conservation Trust for land management activities at the recently acquired Rock Bluff Springs tract.

Rock Bluff Springs is mentioned numerous times in that budget, mostly about costs, including this paragraph.

During FY 2017-18, the District anticipates negotiating a no cost security agreement with the Gilchrist County Sheriff at the Rock Bluff Springs tract. This no cost agreement is estimated to save approximately $15,000 annually, which would otherwise be necessary to provide security at the tract. Also, the District anticipates negotiating a management agreement with the Alachua Conservation Trust at the Rock Bluff Springs tract. The estimated management savings is approximately $80,000 annually.

None of the documents I found seem to say what the park amenities will be: water? restrooms? shelter? camping? boat access? other? Maybe they want to reveal all that at the grand opening.

Wait, there is some detail in the Management Plan, which mentions parking, picnic tables, and apparently porta-potties to begin with. There’s a house at least previously occupied by a Gilchrist County Sheriff Deputy as a caretaker.

Boundary Survey

The low bid by far was for $8,000 by Southeastern Surveying, Inc. of Valdosta, GA, and the contract was awarded to the low bidder.

[Property Overview, Rock Bluff Springs Co., LLC]
Property Overview, Rock Bluff Springs Co., LLC

Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)

The contract was awarded to the low bidder, ECS Florida, LLC. of Orlando, FL, which bid $2,200.

Fence and Gate Installation Services

The bid results do not say to whom the contract was awarded, but the low bidder was M & L Contracting, Inc., with $5,489. The results also do not give the location of the bidders.

Liepo’s Maintenance7,450.00
Commercial Fence Contractors, Inc.10,580.00
M & L Contracting Inc.5,489.00
Chaples Tractor & Agricultural Services10,300.00

[Fence Project Location Map, Rock Bluff Tract]
Fence Project Location Map, Rock Bluff Tract

SRWMD has held previous public meetings, such as a Rock Bluff Management Plan Public Meeting, 28 February 2019, at Bell Community Center.

Even before that, SRWMD put out a press release 4 February 2019, Rock Bluff Springs Open For Public Use and Input (PDF),

LIVE OAK, FLA., Feb. 04, 2019 — The J.H. Anderson, Jr. Memorial Park — Rock Bluff Springs Tract is one step closer to opening for public use. On January 8, 2019, Suwannee River Water Management District’s (District) Governing Board approved a management agreement and plan that authorizes Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) to provide management of the tract.

[To be accessible by land]
To be accessible by land.

“The District is looking forward to partnering with ACT to open the Rock Bluff Springs Tract to the public,” said Hugh Thomas, executive director of the District. “Opening the tract will provide additional recreational opportunities to Gilchrist County and the surrounding communities, along with increased traffic for businesses in the area.”

Currently, Rock Bluff Springs is only accessible by boat. The District plans to open the 170-acre tract in Gilchrist County to provide the public with access to the spring by land. Over the past year, the District has sought after an organization to manage the tract, ultimately leading to negotiations with ACT.

According to the management agreement and plan, the District will fund and manage the initial facility improvements projects, while ACT will be responsible for long-term maintenance of those facilities. The agreement between the District and ACT will be valid for 10 years with a 10-year extension if both parties agree.

ACT plans to keep the Rock Bluff Springs Tract well-maintained to preserve the natural system, while allowing the public to enjoy the spring,” said Tom Kay, executive director of ACT. “We believe that Rock Bluff Springs will become a popular recreational spot for families in the near future.”

The District and ACT are inviting citizens to attend public meetings to discuss and seek input on the proposed Rock Bluff Springs Management Plan. Visit for meeting details.

Rock Bluff is a second magnitude spring with a 700′ spring run to the Suwannee River in Gilchrist County near Bell. The clear crystal spring, with its large cypress trees, is the centerpiece of the one hundred seventy-acre tract. The property is dotted with numerous karst windows opening into the aquifer surrounded by large Live Oaks trees. During the summers months mullet dart and jump two plus feet out of the water.

The blue-green crystal spring pool measures 250′ north to south and 171′ east to west, with several vents feeding the shallow pool. The main spring is a nearly oval cavity that is 30 feet long, six feet wide and 30 feet deep.

The mission of the Suwannee River Water Management District is to protect and manage water resources using science-based solutions to support natural systems and the needs of the public. The District holds true to the belief of water for nature, water for people. Headquartered in Live Oak, Florida, the District serves 15 surrounding north-central Florida counties.

For more information about the District, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter, search @SRWMD.

Thanks to Bret Wagenhorst for spotting this spring park opening.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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