11
Sun, Apr
453 New Articles

ALACHUA ‒ In 1978 it was just a dream. But then Norwood Hope, a Gainesville city council member, hired architect Ward Northrup to design a championship-caliber golf course in the center of the new subdivision at Turkey Creek in Alachua. Hope envisioned a course that was communally inviting, with water on six holes and bunkers hugging a good number of greens. The first-rate course became reality and also a favorite for golfers, locals and visitors alike.

Although located within the Turkey Creek neighborhood, the course was opened as a private company, so residents had to pay a separate membership fee to the club to play. For years the golf course flourished, but by 2010, club officials said less than 10 percent of Turkey Creek residents played at the course, which prompted greens fees to be slashed. The club briefly changed names to “Plantation Oaks” to try reverse its fate.

But a $300,000 shortfall in its 2010 season sealed its destiny. The course closed in April 2011 and many feared it would never be revived. The course had been losing money for several years and the greens weren’t being properly maintained. The course and clubhouse sat abandoned. The clubhouse was not up to code and needed repair and the irrigation along the golf course was shot. With no maintenance, the grass on the course died and the weeds grew tall.

But against all odds, on Jan. 23, 2021 the golf course came roaring back to life with a long-awaited ribbon cutting ceremony on the first tee and a four-person, 22-team scramble. It has been a long struggle by members of the Turkey Creek Master Owners Association Board (MOA) to revitalize the course and reopen it as a public golf course.

According to Loretta Shane, a member of the Turkey Creek Board of Directors, it was the work of the whole community, the MOA members and other volunteers that made it happen. Over the years that it lay abandoned, Alachua City Hall received multiple complaints about wild hogs, the smell of deserted restrooms and the general state of ruin the course had become.

This also created a downturn in housing sales in the community. The MOA had enough. In 2015, they applied for a loan and purchased the property and its clubhouse for $1.35 million. The MOA originally had no intention of going into the golf business, however; this was strictly to turn the clubhouse into a community center, leasing it out for a restaurant and event and recreation center which also included a pool and tennis courts.

But the loan was for purchase of the land and building, all of which needed repair, so there was no money left over to redo the course. They initially tried to get a leasing company to redo the course and maintain it, but found that too expensive. The one company they did hire to redo the course imploded after three months, with few repairs actually done.

“We needed to find funds to finish the job, so we formed an LLC and sold shares at $5,000 a share which netted us $355,000,” said Shane. “That helped on getting the supplies we needed and getting the grass replanted. But we still had no equipment to maintain the course and the entire sprinkler system had to be replaced as well.

“We had to beg, borrow or barter for equipment and use volunteers from the community to do the actual work,” Shane said. “It was all community involvement. We didn't even have a shovel to dig the trenches for replacing over 360 sprinkler heads.” Shane said they borrowed a fairway mower and other equipment from Santa Fe High School in exchange for letting the school’s golf team play for free. “We also bought used equipment from two golf courses that were shutting down,” Shane said.

They opened up the practice field and a three-hole course, charging $15 to play it. To buy supplies for the sprinkler system they offered names on a commemorative plaque in the pro shop where residents could make a donation of $300 toward the new sprinkler system. They also leased the building for the event center and a restaurant to add more funds to continue rebuilding the course.

Piece by piece they put the course back together, and in August 2020 the MOA made the decision to open the entire course, but new reseeding the grass on several holes delayed the opening until this past Saturday.

Under an overcast sky with light rain, a long line of golf carts waited to be the first to play the field after the ribbon cutting. All slots for the four-person, 22-team scramble that followed ceremonial tee shots were filled within 48 hours of announcement of the course reopening.

The MOA will run the pro shop and has hired a management company to maintain the course. “By doing the work ourselves and keeping equipment purchases down we were able to open the course at about one-third of what it would have cost us to hire companies to do it,” said Shane. “This gave us the funding to be able to hire a professional golf management company, Davey Tree-Golf Division to oversee the daily operation.

“They have also hired a number of our volunteers as staff, so after all their volunteer work, they can now get paid to do it,” Shane said.”

Throughout the restoration process, a number of residents became involved in a variety of ways, pulling shrubs and weeds, giving money to the cause or merely supplying those on the course with cold drinks in the Florida humidity.

“People would pitch in during the evenings and spend their weekends getting the course in shape. There were a couple of retirees, but much of the community did this while also keeping day jobs,” said Sane. “It was the community itself that made this dream happen.”

#     #     #

Email rcarson@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

ALACHUA ‒ The High Springs Fire Department, along with the Alachua County Fire Department, have had their hands full lately with rescues and fully engulfed fires.

The most recent large fire took nearly six hours to bring under control. The old location for Lady Bug Florist on U.S. Highway 441 in Alachua became fully engulfed and was billowing heavy black smoke when Alachua County Fire Rescue #21 from Alachua arrived on the scene a little after 11 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16. Alachua County’s Engine #25 arrived to assist and High Springs Fire Rescue joined shortly afterward with two units at 11:07 p.m.

The burning 4,500-sq. ft. building required the use of multiple hose lines and an aerial unit to bring the blaze under control. High Springs Public Information Officer Kevin Mangan reported that the High Springs units were on-site until 4:32 a.m. the next morning. The blaze is being investigated by Alachua County Fire Investigators.

In High Sprigs a large trash WCA truck caught fire on Jan. 15 in the High Springs Industrial Park off of Poe Springs Road. When the High Springs Fire Department arrived on the scene the truck was fully engulfed. The blaze was so intense that the cab and steering wheel had melted. Fire fighters had to cut into the side of the metal compactor in order to extinguish that blaze.

According to Mangan, it took about four hours to bring this fire under control. “The cause of this fire is unknown,” he said.

Also in High Springs, on Jan. 5, a High Springs couple found themselves at the bottom of a 40-foot sinkhole. The pair was driving a Dodge Caliber behind EarthWorx and suddenly found themselves in water. Luckily, the couple had the windows open when the vehicle landed in water and both were able to escape.

The male was eventually able to make his way to the top of the sinkhole and walked to the S&S Station on Poe Springs Road and Main Street where he called for help at 7:21 a.m. High Springs Fire Rescue went to the scene and was able to extricate the female.

“Luckily, there were no injuries in any of these incidents,” said Mangan.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

HIGH SPINGS ‒ Christmas is a time for joy and excitement as holiday traditions bring back warm memories as well as anticipation of what is to come. Children are especially excited as they await Christmas morning and the gifts they hope to receive. Christmas is also a time for giving and sharing, and thanks to the High Springs Police Department (HSPD) and its partners, less fortunate children enjoyed a merry Christmas.

Since 2008, HSPD has sponsored Operation Holiday Cheer. HSPD, along with help from the High Springs Fire Department (HSFD) and the City Parks and Recreation Department, have asked for donations of new toys, pajamas and books from the community so they can provide them to children in need. Several local businesses, the Rotary Club and the High Springs Community School have also been involved in the effort.

The school typically notifies the school resource officer of families that could use the help, and HSPD contacts the child's parents to get approval for a delivery and find out if there are other children in the house to add to the list. This also gives the police an opportunity to learn what the children want as they try to match the gifts to the children.

But like everything else in 2020, the pandemic affected how Operation Holiday Cheer would continue. For HSPD, it was never a question of canceling the event, only how to change it to make it safe for everyone.

This year, instead of individuals and organizations donating toys, the police department asked only for cash donations so the officers could purchase the toys themselves to guarantee they were sanitized and properly handled. And parents and children also received gift cards to purchase any items they needed, including food.

Cards were donated by both local and corporate merchants. Locally, Pepperonis, Dollar Tree and Winn-Dixie contributed cards. Other card sponsors included Walmart, Amazon, Old Navy and Gamespot. According to HSPD Chief Antione Sheppard, despite the hard economic times, the community gave more donations than in previous years, providing over $7,000 for the officers to buy gifts.

This year’s event was organized by HSPD Police Officer Jason Taylor and on the morning of Dec. 21, Taylor along with fellow HSPD officers and staff and members of the fire department, sprang into action. They left the police station in police cruiser with lights flashing and the City’s fire truck, going home to home, delivering gifts to 31 children in 12 families.

With COVID precautions in mind, all the officers were masked to provide safe interaction with the families. The group also included two administrative members of the department dressed in colorful inflated costumes representing Santa Claus and a Christmas tree. In addition to spreading holiday cheer, the costumes provided a contact barrier allowing the characters to have closer interaction with the children.

While the pandemic has changed many aspects of life in 2020, traditions continue and people find other ways to safely work around COVID-19. This year has been hard for many families, especially economically, and that makes Operation Holiday Cheer more important than ever to help those in need this holiday season.

#     #     #

Email rcarson@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS ‒ High Springs will soon have its own golf course. However, it won't be competing with Turkey Creek or any of Gainesville's large courses because this course is strictly for miniature golf enthusiasts. The course, which will features18 holes, is directly behind the soon-to-open Pink Flamingo Diner. While the course is associated with the diner for its customers to make a family outing instead of just a meal, it also operates as its own recreation center open to everyone. Adults can play all 18 holes for $7.50, with seniors discounted to $6.50 and children at $5.50.

According to the Pink Flamingo's General Manager Mike Smith, the idea for a miniature golf course behind the Diner actually originated with the original owners, who opened Floyd's Diner in 2001. When the building was purchased this year by Dae Jung Kim, it went through major renovations and will reopen as Pink Flamingo Diner.

While the plans for the new restaurant were being discussed with developer Karl Spain, the idea of the miniature golf course resurfaced as a way to provide more than just food at the location and offer a different type of entertainment and recreation to the community.

New Jersey based Harris Miniature Golf Inc. was hired to build the course. The completed course features 18 holes winding through a variety of scenarios. The course is ADA accessible on nine of the holes so that people with disabilities can enjoy it as well. Laid out in a single winding path, the course is surrounded by lush landscaping and features a variety of obstacles from water, rocks and plants to make it more challenging.

Concerns for nearby houses was addressed with a six-foot retaining wall to reduce noise and any stray balls. Local artist Jim Wegman was hired to create murals on the restaurant and add a fantasy element to the course. He repurposed an old propane tank to look like a submarine, and the storage shed behind it is painted with an ocean scene to create a fantasy playground for kids.

A building located on the course will supply balls and golf putters to customers and also offer soft-serve ice creams and smoothies. On the back side the building is a drive-through window that will sell coffee in the morning before the restaurant or golf course opens. Smith said the hours of the drive-through will help keep down any traffic congestion, maintain safety for restaurant and golf course customers and not compete with the restaurant. The coffee drive-through will be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hours for the golf course will be 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

#     #     #

Email rcarson@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

ALACHUA ‒ On the evening of Dec. 3, the Amphitheater at Alachua’s Legacy Park hosted Dance Alive National Ballet's (DANB) production of “The Nutcracker” to an estimated crowd of 700 people. The amphitheater was part of the overall plan to make Legacy Park a central location for recreational and cultural activities.

The Gainesville based professional ballet company has been performing “The Nutcracker” for 54 years with over 200 touring performances and 30 school programs in the United States. Over the past four years it has also become a traditional show in Alachua as well.

Like many entertainment performances, the pandemic has hit the ballet industry hard. Most of DANB's scheduled performances for this winter and spring 2021 have been canceled or postponed due to limitations on venues and crowd size. But “The Nutcracker” is an important part of the company’s history, and some shows that could be performed either outdoors or in larger venues that would allow for audience social distancing remained. One of those was the Alachua performance of “The Nutcracker” as over 30 dancers performed a nearly two-hour show at the outdoor amphitheater under the stars.

In 1966 Mary Ellen Pofahl, a professional dancer and teacher, founded the DANB company and it has continued through the talents and efforts of her daughters, Judy Skinner and Kim Tuttle. The Dance Alive National Ballet has become the premier touring company in the Southeastern United States. It is actually two entities under the direction of the two sisters. Tuttle and Skinner are owners/directors of the Dance Alive National Ballet with Tuttle serving as Artistic Director and Skinner serving as Choreographer-in-Residence.

While “The Nutcracker” was the last performance of the year at the Legacy Park amphitheater, it demonstrated how successful this outdoor stage can be. And Legacy is fulfilling its namesake by providing space and creating an environment of entertainment and culture for the community provided by the City of Alachua, free of charge to those attending.

#     #     #

Email rcarson@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

At noon, Tuesday, Jan. 5, in front of the Alachua County Criminal Courthouse, Clovis Watson, Jr. was officially sworn in as the Alachua County Sheriff. Watson joined his fellow Constitutional Officers serving Alachua County at the swearing in ceremony.

Watson previously served as a state representative serving District 20, which covered parts of Alachua and Marion counties. Prior to his eight-year stint as state representative, he was the Alachua City Manager and prior to that he was the City of Alachua Deputy Police Chief.

Watson grew up in the Merrillwood projects in Alachua and graduated from Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe College, Law Enforcement Certification; Santa Fe College, AS, Criminal Justice Technology; University of Alabama, BA, Interdisciplinary Studies, Human Services; Mountain State University, MA, Interdisciplinary Studies, Public Administration; Northcentral University, MBA; Harvard University John F. Kennedy Graduate School of Government Executive Education, Leadership for the 21st Century.

Watson was sworn in by fellow Santa Fe High School graduate the Honorable Judge Susanne Wilson Bullard.

Other constitutional officers sworn in Tuesday include Kim Barton as Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, J.K. “Jess” Irby as the Alachua County clerk of the Court, Brian S. Kramer as the State Attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, Ayesha Solomon as the Alachua County Property appraiser, John Power as the Alachua County Tax Collector, and Stacy A. Scott as the Public Defender for the Eighth Judicial Circuit,

Add a comment

ALACHUA ‒ Visitors to the city of Alachua’s Main Street were in for a treat Saturday afternoon, Dec. 12. For the past 36 years the Alachua Chamber of Commerce has hosted the annual Christmas Parade through the downtown area. Each year local businesses, government departments, civic groups and churches sponsor floats to entertain the spectators and compete for prizes. Children anxiously awaited the parade for chance to see Santa Claus and collect the treats thrown from each decorated float or handed out by people walking alongside.

This year however, the world is different due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is currently surging during the holidays. High Springs canceled its annual evening parade due to concerns about crowd size and ability to social distance, and instead residents had a parade of decorated cars driving around downtown High Springs.

Alachua moved forward with the afternoon parade as an important tradition for area children and to give them a sense of normalcy at Christmastime. All parade participants wore masks as did most of the spectators. While the event was smaller than previous years, both in crowd size and in number of floats and entries, the excitement was palpable among the crowd as they enjoyed the parade. Instead of the usual 35-40 floats, this year there were only 28, but the festivities, enthusiasm and spirit of Christmas celebration were ever present.

This year’s parade theme paid tribute to a throwback collection of classic toys. The parade historically starts with a police escort, and this year was no different. With lights flashing and sirens wailing motorcycle patrolmen led the parade, followed by police cars from Alachua and High Springs.

Families still lined the street in lawn chairs to watch the procession, although they were spread out in their family groups to help create social distancing. Following the police escort was a flag color guard consisting of three Marine veterans. Other members of the Marine Corps League of Veterans followed in two army jeeps outfitted with an American flag waving from a pole. Additional veterans walked along the sidelines handing out candy. City Mayor Gib Coerper followed them, waving at the crowd.

The parade's grand marshal, newly elected Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr., greeted the hometown crowd from a vintage convertible Mustang. The Santa Fe High School Raider Regiment provided the parade’s marching band and engaged the crowd with their holiday tunes.

The City of Alachua’s float, fashioned like a red radio flyer wagon, featured a display of giant-sized favorite children’s toys, including Legos, tinker toys, a barrel of monkeys, and Raggedy Anne. City Commissioners Shirley Green Brown and Dana Miller joined City employees on the colorful float.

Volunteers, walking alongside the floats, were dressed in Christmas attire or portrayed characters such as Santa's elves, and handed out candy to the children along the parade route. For the children, it was a magical time, seeing the colorful floats and costumed characters, along with free candy and gifts.

Other float sponsors included Mi Apa Restaurant, Shriners, Domino’s Pizza, Alachua 4H Club, MatchMaker Realty, All Stars Twirling Academy, Momentum Dance Academy, High Springs Playhouse, Santa Fe Babe Ruth Baseball team, Boy Scout Troop 88 and Pack 88 Cub and Tiger scouts.

As each float passed the judge’s stage at the intersection of 148th Place and Main Street, parade MC's Ben Boukari, Jr., Mike DaRoza and Robert Bonetti announced the sponsor of each float, oftentimes pausing long enough to chat with the participants.

But the best was yet to come as the float everyone was waiting for arrived. Santa Claus waved to the children as he rode by perched on top of a firetruck. Excited youngsters responded by waving and calling out Santa's name to try and catch his attention.

At the conclusion of the festivities, the judges awarded first place to the Momentum Dance Arts float, which was decorated in a Barbie doll theme and featured dancers dressed as vintage Barbie dolls

Add a comment

More Articles ...