The state of Florida officially added the 175th state park on Friday.
Located near high springs, Blue Springs State Park was already a popular spot.
“Couldn’t be more excited about the state taking over this park,” Gabriel Tyner, a Gainesville native, said. He’s been coming to Gilchrist Blue Springs Park for years. “I love the springs. It’s a part of my life. I grew up on the river, grew up paddling, this is my home.”
The state agreed to purchase the spring in June from private owners for more than $5 million.
It has been a long process; the park suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Irma.
“The park was flooded,” Parks Bureau Chief Clif Maxwell said, “and there were a lot of infrastructure issues to repair and get ready for the public.”
The state finalized the purchase of Gilchrist Blue Springs Park in October, and while the springs have been open for swimmers over the past few weeks, officials reopened the campgrounds around the springs last week. According to Park Service Director Eric Draper, state ownership means natural features can be properly protected.
“It means two things,” Draper said. “One is that we are here to protect this spring and the environment, and secondly we want to make sure that it is enjoyed by a lot of people.”