The Suwannee River Water Management District’s governing board has approved the purchase of 636 acres in Gilchrist County. The property known as Otter Springs will be purchased for $6.8 million in a deal that includes a provision for the current owners to relinquish a bottled water permit.
Charlie Houder, Deputy Executive Director for Land Acquisition and Management, says that the recreational facilities along with an abundance of natural resources makes the Otter Springs purchase one of the most exciting acquisitions in recent years.
"Otter Springs is an important acquisition for the District because it encompasses a number of significant features related to water resource protection," Houder explains.
At 636 acres, it is one of the few remaining parcels of its size left on the Suwannee River. The acquisition will expand the corridor of protected habitat along the river and will extinguish a permit to bottle up to 400,000 gallons of water a day.
The property serves as both an exemplary recreational and environmental investment that will offer protection to two freshwater second magnitude springs, over a mile of frontage on the Suwannee River and high quality natural communities.
"District ownership of the property will expand the opportunities for public recreation and nature-based tourism in the region," Houder says.
The purchase is being made with funds from the state-wide Florida Forever program. The District will also make annual payments in lieu of taxes to Gilchrist County to offset the taxes paid by the current owner.
Upon closing in October, the District plans to keep the property open to the public including use of all facilities on-site. This is likely to occur through a lease agreement with Gilchrist County.