110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Apr 9, 2012 - 7:54:07am
The budget ax has fallen on the Blue Spring Working Group.
Since 2007, the coalition of citizens and government officials has been studying Blue Spring in Orange City, and conductinåg seminars and public forums to educate people about the importance of protecting the first-magnitude spring, so sufficient clean water continues to flow there to support the fish and other wildlife that depend on the habitat.
Now, the budget of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has been cut.
In turn, the agency has withdrawn about $20,000 a year it contributed to the Blue Spring Working Group, and cut funding for similar groups statewide.
“What that means is a lot of not-for-profits are going to have to step up,” Steve Kintner said.
Kintner, vice chairman of the Blue Spring Working Group steering committee, is the retired director of the Volusia County Environmental Management Division and current vice president of the West Volusia Audubon Society.
“Audubon certainly supports the project,” Kintner said.
He noted that nonprofits funding government work is not new. The salaries of the first state wildlife officers in Florida were paid by the Audubon Society in the early 1900s, Kintner said.
When news of the budget cut hit in late 2011, Working Group facilitator Dr. Carol Lippincott brought together a steering committee with representatives from Volusia County and municipalities in the Blue Spring springshed — Orange City, DeLand, Deltona, Lake Helen and DeBary — along with people from the St. Johns River Water Management District, the DEP, the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, the West Volusia Audubon Society and Stetson University.
Their mission: find ways to continue the Working Group’s work.
The Boardman Foundation sponsored two meetings, and will likely continue to help, foundation advisory-board member Mark Soskin said.
The mission of the nonprofit foundation, named for noted Volusia County conservationist Walter Boardman, is to raise awareness of regional ecosystems and encourage conservation, restoration and education, as well as initiating enhancement projects.
Kintner said the “very, very important” wealth of information and resources compiled by the Working Group could be lost, and environmental protection could suffer. That, he said, will ultimately have an effect on the local economy.
“People move to Florida for the environment,” Kintner said.
The manager of Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Bob Rundle, said he’d like to see the Working Group continue.
The group has brought in experts on water and on the effects of various activities on the spring who have provided valuable information, Rundle said.
“I will look at it as an opportunity to continue to educate myself,” he said.
Educating people in the communities of the springshed is important, too, Rundle said, because there is much that affects the spring over which the Park Service has no control. That includes runoff and contaminants that make their way into the spring from surrounding areas, as well as development patterns.
Then, there’s the tourism aspect. Swimming, hiking, camping, manatee-viewing and more attract people to the state park.
“More than half a million visitors a year are coming to the spring,” Rundle said. “It’s important that the spring remain a healthy resource.”
Blue Spring is the most significant warm-water refuge in the St. Johns River system for manatees, and Blue Spring is “one of the gems of the Florida Park Service,” Rundle said.
Its sparkling cold waters were treasured by Native Americans thousands of years before Spanish settlers came.
The comments posted below are posted by readers, not by The Beacon staff. These comments express the views and opinions of the authors, and not the administrators, moderators or webmaster. The comments forum is governed by these rules. Please use the report abuse link if you find offensive comments.
Comment on this article
Commenting is closed for this article.
If you would like to contribute a letter to the editor, please click here.
Did you find this story interesting or informative? Subscribe to The West Volusia Beacon to read more stories by Pat Andrews, along with others from our award-winning writers. Subscribe now!