Beautiful Wakulla Springs sparkled in the summer sun. The first time I floated over the vent—185 feet below—made me dizzy as a child. The water was so clear it seemed that I might fall into the hole.
|Geographic and hydrologic elements at Wakulla.|
|A gallinule chick makes its way across a mat of Hydrilla.|
A year or so ago, Tallahassee Community College (TCC) announced the construction of an environmental training center in Wakulla County—the Wakulla Environmental Institute (WEI). Recently, they unveiled plans to sublease some 2000 acres of Wakulla Springs State Park for 50 years, build a campground near Cherokee Sink, and begin training the next generation of park managers. Conservationists rallied. A heavily attended public meeting was held on June 17. It was at best an acrimonious gathering that could have turned ugly. The majority of speakers favored the plan. Most environmentalists did not.
I attended the meeting along with two other Magnolia Chapter board members. I had not planned to speak, but I was urged to get up. By the time my turn came, many in the audience had left. I offered support of WEI, but said that the Magnolia Chapter staunchly opposed the campground, pointing out that two other campgrounds, one another state park, were nearby and could be utilized and students could be sent as interns to other state parks. I also noted that it would take more than a two-year Associates degree to train a park manager.
In the days afterward, I conferred with local, well-known Florida springs advocates, Jim Stevenson and Madeline Carr. Both welcomed and encouraged the support of the Magnolia Chapter, hoping that our members would write letters to officials and voice their concerns about the WEI proposal. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Tallahassee Democrat addressing my concerns, including the precedent this program might set for other Florida state parks. I sent copies to Governor Rick Scott, TCC President Jim Murdaugh, and Lewis Scruggs at DEP. None responded personally. On Sunday, July 20, the newspaper published letters opposing WEI's plan from Pam McVety, Ann Bidlingmaier, and myself. I soon received thanks from Jim, Ann, and Madeline, as well as several Magnolia Chapter members and others concerned about the issue.
On Friday, July 25, Bob Ballard, WEI director and former DEP deputy secretary, announced that the proposal had been withdrawn. Although Ballard advised that they might come back with a modified proposal, DEP press secretary Tiffany Cowie said, “Due to the withdrawal of the proposal, the department is no longer considering the project.”
|"You have to stand up for some things in this world."|
- Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Posted by Laurie Sheldon