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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Answers to specific questions re: Poe Springs

Published Jun 24, 2009
SUMMARY
PREEMPTION ISSUES WE INVESTIGATED DUE TO PUBLIC CONCERNS:
· Park management verbally telling canoers/kayakers that they could not paddle into spring & spring run and would have to pay admission fee to swim
· 2 posted signs along the spring run that caused confusion – leading river users to believe the spring and spring run were private (“DESIGNATED SWIMMING AREA – NO BOATS BEYOND THIS POINT” + “POE SPRINGS PARK – ENTRANCE FEE - $5.00 PER PERSON”)
Both issues bulleted above can qualify as “unauthorized preemption” of SSL (Sovereign Submerged Lands)

RESULTS:
· Division of State Lands confirmed “THE STATE HOLDS TITLE TO THE SUBMERGED LANDS OF POE SPRING, POE SPRING RUN AND THE SANTA FE RIVER AT THIS SITE”
· Alachua County & Nature Quest was informed of the title determination – both agreed not to limit/manage/control public access to Poe Spring and the spring run
· County removed both signs from the spring run (signs had been put up prior to Nature Quest management) – I (DEP) visited site this morning and confirmed removal
· Informed county that they could not deposit “new sand” or “other fill” w/in 100’ of the spring & spring run to maintain the present man-made beach area

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:
1. Yes, the waters in the spring and spring run are for the public’s use and cannot be managed by another party without authorization
2. Yes, any lands “waterward” of the “ordinary high” along the Santa Fe River, the spring run, and the spring itself is SSL for public use (lawful) and cannot be managed by another party without authorization
3. Yes, the land submerged (bottom) in the spring and spring run is SSL for public use – public can “walk” up the spring run
4. Yes, the public has the right to park on the Santa Fe River bank (staying in water) & wade/walk or swim up into the spring run and spring. Yes, the public can paddle up into the spring run and spring.
5. SEE DISCUSSION BELOW

DISCUSSION:
At different times the fixed ordinary high water line can fall below water levels (i.e. floods) or can be above water levels on dry bank (i.e. drought) – a good rule of thumb is for the public to stay in the water column with their vessel and feet – along the mostly level river, spring bottom. Walking along the exposed sloping banks of rivers and springs contribute to bank erosion and potentially gets the user into an issue with the surrounding property owner. We ask the public to respect private property and use care when paddling into springs with swimmers/divers/children present. Alachua Co and Nature Quest stated that they will approach individuals for admissions if they walk above the top of the bank – i.e. to use the restroom or picnic facilities. They understand that paddlers will be along the banks when exiting their vessels to go for a swim.

Hope this helps - call if any questions,

Carmine Oliverio

Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Northeast District - Live Oak Field Office
Submerged Lands / Environmental Resources Permitting - Compliance & Enforcement
(386) 362-0417
Source: Email correspondence

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