WUFT News

Cross Creek Area Businesses Hurting From Low Lake Levels

By and on September 20th, 2013
Cross Creek Lodge owner Gary Palmeter stands by grass-filled boat slips.

Donna Green-Townsend / WUFT News

Cross Creek Lodge owner Gary Palmeter stands by grass-filled boat slips.

Cross Creek Lodge once catered to fishermen, hunters and people with a love for the great outdoors, but with lake levels staying low for many years it seems the lodge will never thrive like it previously did.

Read part one of this story about North Florida’s Lake Region.

Owner and operator of the Cross Creek Lodge Gary Palmeter opened the doors to his business, which sits on the creek between Orange and Lochloosa lakes, more than three decades ago, but irregular lake levels have allowed him to operate for only 12 of 33 years he’s been in business.

“We still keep the motel going and we try to keep the campground going as best we can, but the motel hasn’t done anything because most of the people that want to come here to stay are fishermen,” Palmeter said. “They call and want to bring their son to where they used to fish and, well, they can’t do that anymore.”

Palmeter said he feels there’s more to this problem than just rain. A sinkhole under Orange Lake, a major source of contention between Marion and Alachua counties, is also thought to be draining a large amount of water from the lake.

“So that’s the crux of the problem besides the rain,” he said. “…We get water levels and I understand that we won’t maintain a high level, but with water always flowing out of the lakes there’s nothing that can be done to stabilize them.”

Low water levels are seen at a boat launch area at Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park.

Donna Green-Townsend / WUFT News

Low water levels are seen at a boat launch area at Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park.

The large amounts of rain that accompany Florida summers can refill the lakes, but Palmeter knows the reprieve is only temporary.

“Even when we got the two hurricanes that came late in 2004, that water only held for 18 months. It was up sufficiently so that we could have boats launch here,” Palmeter said. “We had boat and motor rentals again. I don’t think we’re going to go through that again.”

Other local businesses have been suffering as well. The Yearling Restaurant in Cross Creek is still open, but it’s up for sale. With continued limited lake access, Palmeter said it’s hard to keep these businesses running.

Though the business is still open, there’s a for sale sign in front of the Yearling Restaurant in Cross Creek.

Donna Green-Townsend / WUFT News

Though the business is still open, there’s a for sale sign in front of the Yearling Restaurant in Cross Creek.

“I’m losing a lot of money every year,” Palmeter said. “We used to have a number of people that stayed here through the hunting season, but if they don’t get a permit, which is a lottery type thing, they don’t come. That’s a loss to not only the community but the county, because that’s tourist dollars out the window.”

Alachua County Environmental Protection Director Chris Bird said no matter how much it has been debated over the past 50 years, nothing can be done to the Orange Lake sinkhole without causing more damage. The natural geology of the lake is such that plugging up the sinkhole could disturb many delicate environmental relationships.

“Most likely what would happen is that there would just be other sinks that would open up other places because there’s just a lot of pressure,” Bird said.  “They’ve actually done dive trace studies that suggest that that water is draining back into the aquifer and it’s part of the Silver springshed, so again, there’s just a lot of important relationships.  And because of that, at least in my opinion, it would not be wise to start trying to mess with mother nature.”

Orange and Lochloosa lakes are not the only ones experiencing low levels in Alachua County. Newnan’s Lake has also experienced fluctuations in water levels. Retired wetlands biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Dale Crider has seen the level changes while living by the lake. Crider said the situation is not much different from Keystone Heights.

“I think it’s like most north Florida lakes, that it’s tied in to the Floridian aquifer, which is over-pumped and underfed right now because we’re not getting the rains we used to,” Crider said, “and it’s over-pumped by all sources, from municipal to agriculture to – you name it.”

Water line on Cypress tree by the shore of Newnan's Lake shows how water levels have dropped

Donna Green-Townsend

Water line on Cypress tree by the shore of Newnan's Lake shows how water levels have dropped.

Crider pointed to a tree, where the water level line from three weeks ago was visible, showing how far it had decreased in such a short time. He said it demonstrates the lakes still aren’t healthy.

“I don’t think we’ll ever reach that point where what we used to call normal use of water for watering our lawn or just filling our swimming pool more frequently or whatever we do with it,” he said. “I think those days are past.”

Crider and Palmeter agree that county officials and water regulators will need to do a better job of overseeing Florida’s water resources.


This entry was posted in Environment and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
 

More Stories in Environment

Billy McDaniel (left), Tommy Hines (right) catch a gag grouper at Cedar Key, trolling in 50 feet of water.

FWC Surveys Local Fishermen About Gulf Species

The FWC is conducting surveys to discover trends in species of fish being caught in the Gulf of Mexico. Local fishermen agree that monitoring the fish is important, but some question the method of data collection.


Gina Hall, the current president of the Gainesville Alachua County Association of Realtors, said that residential sales in the Stephen Foster neighborhood have been improving. Local realtor Darlene Pifalo said the home pictured above sold in an average amount time on the market after the price was lowered slightly.

Stephen Foster Residents Hope For Neighborhood Revival

The Cabot-Koppers wood treatment plant became an EPA Superfund site in 1983 after dioxins contaminated the soil and underground aquifer. Now that cleanup of residential property was completed in November, the residents look toward the future.


Frosted elfin butterfly

Butterfly Study Calls Attention To Prescribed Burning Practices

A recent study by a University of Florida graduate researches the effects of prescribed fires on the elfin frosted butterfly. The species requires fire to survive, but is also prone to damage from excessive burning.


Containerized longleaf pine seedlings are removed from a growing tray. They are then counted and placed in a wax coated cardboard shipping box.

Longleaf Pine Restoration Helps Environment And Economy

Longleaf pine is being reintroduced into the United States ecosystem. If the restoration plan is successful, this type of pine would benefit the environment and the economy.


Bert the bluff oak resides outside the Nuclear Science Center on the University of Florida campus. Plans to construct the Innovation Nexus Building in that area for the College of Engineering have gone through several variations in order to save him and four other heritage trees in the area.

For Trees Like Bert, Special Titles Do Not Always Guarantee Special Protections

The Florida Champion Tree Register recognizes the largest tree in the state of each noninvasive species. It’s the next step of recognition up from heritage tree status, like that of Bert, the bluff oak that has affected plans for the Innovation Nexus Building at UF.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments