HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs may be purchasing the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost. At the June 24 City Commission meeting, Recreation Director Damon Messina provided updated information regarding the possible purchase of the property.
“What is for sale is the business, land, building and assets,” Messina said. The land is 2.5 acres and includes a two-story building with one bathroom inside and two more attached to the outside of the building. Purchase by High Springs would serve to preserve and protect the area’s natural resources. “Should the owners sell the property to someone else, even if they promise to maintain it as it is, it’s possible they could sell to another entity which doesn’t have to abide by the same directive,” Messina said.
The business has been open for more than 30 years and has operated at a profit. Messina pointed out that the land has gone up in value 20 – 25 percent in recent years and there is a high demand for this type of recreation.
If the City doesn’t want to manage the Outpost, Messina suggested that a request for proposals (RFP) be issued for an outside agency to manage the facility. The property has been appraised at $600,000, said Messina. If the Commission chooses to purchase the Outpost, the City will be able to continue to offer watercraft rentals, camping and shuttle service.
Messina said partial funding would be possible through Wild Spaces Public Places funds. A private donor through Alachua County Trust has also offered to provide $175,000 toward the purchase.
Costs involved would include flood insurance, which is estimated at $2,000 annually. Insurance for the vehicles, dock and pathway will cost approximately $2,750.
Upgrades to the facility are estimated at $150,000. Those costs include replacing the boardwalk and adding secure railings, replacement of the dock, remodel the bathrooms to make all replacement and renovations A.D.A. compliant, plus improve signage on the U.S. Highway 441 entrance.
Messina listed some of the goals of obtaining this property which included providing educational services to the community, partnering with local schools and organizations to offer programs and events, continuing as care takers of the river and natural surroundings, continued protection of an environmental asset and extending its economic force in the community bringing thousands of visitors to the area. Messina also sai the City would be seeking state and federal grant and program opportunities.
Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) Executive Director Tom Kay was on hand to talk about possible funding options through grants and other programs. He will assist the City in obtaining funding from Florida Communities Trust Parks and Open Space Program. This program is a state acquisition program that provides Florida Forever funds to local governments and environmental non-profit organizations for purchase and upgrades of greenways that further outdoor recreation and natural resources.
As part of his presentation, Kay pointed out that the City only needs to put $150,000 down on the property. He also said their organization has had some success with grants that would be available to the City should the Commission decide to make the commitment.
City Manager Ashley Stathatos pointed out there would be income from rentals plus the opportunity for grants once the City obtains the property. Commissioner Scott Jamison pointed out that a splash park or one of the other items on the City’s initial agenda for Wild Spaces funding can be done later.
“Overall,” said Messina, “this acquisition might provide added opportunities for a Rails to Trails future purchase. One of the rail lines ends next to the U.S. 27 bridge which would provide additional riverside access.”
Current owner Jim Wood also addressed the Commission and said he would like to sell the property to the City to protect the land and all they have put into this area. He also stated that he would continue to run the business until the City prepares an RFP and obtains someone else to run the facility.
Stathatos said that if the City signs a contract in July, it might be possible to close by October. The Commission took no action but will continue to review information about the potential purchase of the property
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