Benefits include aquifer recharge, Silver Springs protection and improved recreational access
PALATKA, Fla., Nov. 13, 2020 — The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board voted Tuesday to partner with Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) and the Florida Forest Service (FFS) to purchase nearly 102 acres adjacent to Indian Lake State Forest and the District’s Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area in Marion County.
Featuring natural sandhills with potential to recharge the Floridan aquifer system, the property helps to protect the first-magnitude Silver Springs nearby. The tract is within a pending springs priority area and is located 4.5 miles upstream from Silver Springs State Park.
Also, since the property connects to Indian Lake State Forest on its entire southern and eastern boundary, and the state forest is adjacent to the District’s Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area, the acquisition improves recreation access.
The board on Tuesday approved a joint participation agreement with ACT and FFS that calls for the District to provide $490,000 towards the $535,000 purchase price of the property, with ACT providing the remaining funds. The District will own the land, and FFS will manage it as a part of Indian Lake State Forest. In exchange, FFS will sublease a 20-acre inholding within the state forest to the District to be managed as part of the District’s Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area. FFS and ACT have already approved the joint agreement.
Purchased in 2015, the Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area links Indian Lake State Forest, Silver Springs State Park, the Cross Florida Greenway and District-managed lands to the Ocala National Forest. The 4,900-acre conservation area provides a buffer where forests capture rainwater to recharge the aquifer and augment the flow of nearby Silver Springs. The conservation area also protects the headwaters of Half Mile Creek and an unnamed tributary that flow into the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers, which are designated as Outstanding Florida Waters.