After several years of bank erosion and spring bed damage, Little River Springs County Park near Branford will receive more than $100,000 for renovations.
The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) Governing Board announced a partnership agreement with the county to undergo refurbishments after seeing significant erosion and bank failures along the north side.
Jason Furry, Suwannee Parks and Recreation coordinator, said floods throughout the years have caused the shoreline to erode and some of the boardwalk to collapse.
“It’s not really preventing access, but what will happen is that the dirt from the shore will wash down into the spring run itself,” Furry said.
Furry explained the SRWMD improved the park several years ago by adding handicap access, wooden walkways and a boardwalk deck. In addition to safer park access, matting was added to control erosion and large boulders were placed on the west side of the spring run.
But after the improvements were made, damages continued to worsen, and further funding is needed to repair more than 70 feet of eroding shorelines.
The park is about 150 feet long, with an underwater cave system more than 1,200 feet
In early March, Florida senators proposed the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act to help improve water quality and reduce nutrient pollution for Florida springs in need.
Furry said the Suwannee Parks and Recreation Department admitted the Little River Springs County Park proposal to the SRWMD Governing Board because it felt the park fit the criteria, and the department did not have adequate funding to repair the shoreline.
Patrick Webster, the project manager, said the exact start date will be decided by the county. However, Furry hopes the restorations will begin in the fall and last six to 12 months.
The park is currently closed due to high water levels from recent rain, and with the summer season approaching, construction will be put on hold.
The county’s goal is to re-establish the stability of the river and prevent further erosion of the shoreline. Part of the walkways need to be rebuilt, and the stones along the bank need to be replaced, as well as the erosion-control matting.
Webster said there are a few different restoration tasks to consider in order to avoid future erosion and flooding problems. By adding concrete in between the boulders along the banks, it will prevent the stones from falling back into the shoreline.
“There are other options to conduct bank repairs,” Webster said. “You could change the bank configuration to some degree and increase the slopes to try to prevent further erosion.”
Webster added that planting vegetation along the shoreline could also control erosion problems along the bank.
Despite damage to the shoreline, visitation to Little River Springs’ 125 acres, which include picnic areas, nature paths and two overlooks for the wide variety of wildlife, has not been prohibited. The springs’ cave dwellings are not restricted.
Robert Knight, of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, said sometimes construction debris or trash ends up in the springs, causing sediment to accumulate. Knight studies aquatic ecology and is the founder, president and executive director at the institute.
Springs that are heavily used for cave diving have wooden stairs and decks for divers to utilize without eroding the banks. Knight said people accessing the springs could cause damage just by going in and out of the water, which allows sediment to build up in access areas.
While Little River Springs has flood damage to repair, Knight said other springs need sediment removed from their shorelines.
Webster said the district is currently looking at several different spring restoration proposals approved by the board, including projects in Hart Springs Park, Otter Springs Park and Charles Springs.