Jackson County Times

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Record Memorial Day Crowds Cool Off At County Water Parks

   Scattered thundershowers failed to dampen the spirits of hundreds of water lovers who turned out this Memorial Day weekend at the Spring Creek and Blue Springs county recreation areas.  Also, this year’s first stepped-up efforts at preventing littering along the creek and the Chipola River “worked,” according to Jackson County Parks Director Chuck Hatcher.
     On Monday, lifeguards at Blue Springs had to clear the waters of swimmers for half an hour twice due to the thunder and lightening.  But that didn’t stop an estimated 1,100 individuals from paying $2 admission to dive and swim or cook and eat at the two large cook-out pavilions.  The parks department estimated Saturday’s all-day total at 300 individuals and Sunday’s at 365, giving a weekend total of around 1,800.
     The two recreational water parks have enjoyed increasingly high turnouts on weekends and holidays since the Jackson County Commission organized in 2006 and created the parks department, hiring Hatcher as Director.  Initially, prohibitive ordinances were passed against alcohol, disposable containers and Styrofoam coolers but enforcement was a problem. The people seemed to appreciate the increased policing and turned out in higher numbers, Hatcher said.  That was the first clean-up of the recreation areas.  This year, a new approach began.
     “To help keep litter out of the river this year,” Hatcher said, we had our first test this weekend and it looks like it worked.  We are very pleased.”  This year, the ordinance was relaxed a bit to ban only glass containers and any Styrofoam.  An attendant at Spring Creek Park handed out returnable bags to almost every party in canoes, kayaks, and inner tubes at the water entrances.  Many of those rented the equipment from the privately-owned Bear Paw Adventures, headquartered at Magnolia Landing.
     “About 76 pounds of aluminum cans were collected,” Hatcher said, “or about 2,200 cans that could have ended up on the bottom of the river.  At Turner’s Landing, we only had to pick up trash just around the trash barrels.  Group after group exited the river with a bag full of trash.”
     The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, which posted officers at Spring Creek Park and Magnolia Landing, reported only a couple of arrests for underage drinking.  “The presence made a difference,” Hatcher said.  Also, no accidents were reported.
     It’s estimated that 500 visitors used the Spring Creek Park over the weekend to begin floating down the river.  The trip to Magnolia Landing, explained in posted maps at Spring Creek Park, takes about four hours by tube or about two hours by canoe or kayak.  Hatcher said the crowds at Spring Creek Park and Blue Springs are “50/50,” half locals and half from Tallahassee and other places in the region.
      About $110,000 was collected in user fees and concessions at Blue Springs last year, Hatcher said.  No fees are collected at Spring Creek Park.  The parks department doesn’t make money for the county, Hatcher said, but the receipts from the parks and recycling do help the department “fund its budget,” he said.

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