Gainesville has two natural springs within its city limits. One was once the source of the city’s water supply. The other was a popular swimming pool and gathering place.
“My favorite story about Glen Springs is that every time I swam there, I swam faster than I did any other place,” Friends of Glen Springs co-founder Marilyn Tubb said.
Tubb spent her childhood in the cold waters at Glen Springs. It’s where she learned to swim. It’s where she celebrated her graduation from Gainesville High School.
Today Glen Springs is overcome with algae and plant growth. The once crystal-clear water is now green and murky.
In the mid-1970s, the Gainesville Elks Lodge purchased the property. Alachua County Commissioner and Friends of Glen Springs member Robert Hutchinson says stricter city water codes and the creation of municipal pools around Gainesville made it harder for the Elks Club to maintain the pool, and it was ultimately closed.
Since then, pollution from fertilizers, roadway runoff and other contaminants have increased the water’s nitrate levels. Despite some efforts to clean the pool, Hutchinson says more must be done before the beauty of Glen Springs is fully restored.
“I think these springs are the iconic geologic feature of our entire state, and we are blessed in North Central Florida to have an abundance of them,” Hutchinson said. “Quite frankly we’ve done a terrible job of being the stewards of this resource.”
Now, Tubb is working to restore Glen Springs to its natural beauty, after decades of neglect. Tubb co-founded Friends of Glen Springs, or FROGS — a community effort to transform the springs into a public nature park and educational center to teach visitors about Florida’s springs.
The next steps in the Glen Springs restoration project are to seek funding from the Florida legislature for a restoration study — an effort FROGS thinks will cost between 75- and a 100,000 dollars — as well as to find a new location for the Elks Lodge.
“If we could be successful we would then have Ring Park and Glen Springs Park together, and you would have nature trails and a springs area and an educational center all combined; and all very conveniently located in the heart of Gainesville,” Tubb said.
But Glen Springs isn’t the only one within the Gainesville city limit.
Boulware Springs was the source of the city’s water supply for many years. The area around the spring is now a nature park, and is the trailhead for the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail. Hutchinson hopes to see something similar in Glen Spring’s future.
“Boulware Springs is a good comparison because it was a historic facility,” Hutchinson said. “You can learn a lot by going to Boulware Springs. You learn a lot about our history; learn a lot about our hydrogeology and things we’ve done right and wrong over the years. And so I think Glen Springs would be very similar in that sense.”
Hutchinson says preserving and restoring Glen Springs is an important way to ensure environmental awareness of future generations.
“We have to make those outdoor experiences available to our youth because we are raising a generation of kids with no meaningful outdoor experiences anymore,” Hutchinson said. “Without those outdoor experiences as a young kid, the environmentalists of the future will be few and far between.”
Hutchinson says the restoration will be a community effort. For now, the Friends of Glen Springs will continue working with the Elks Club and state legislature to find a way to improve the quality of one of Gainesville’s aquatic treasures.