Getting back to nature is purpose of Silver Springs State Park
By Barbara Brandon Schwartz
Special to the Star-Banner
During the years that Silver Springs was leased from the state by Palace Entertainment, it was operated as an “attraction.” It served patrons who paid for and expected to be entertained in a more or less passive manner.
The purpose then was disconnected from the reality. Giraffes, emus, llamas and other species that were captive there were not native to Florida. Nor were they designed by nature to live in a confined, artificial environment for the sake of profit and amusement. As Marion County Commissioner Stan McClain so aptly stated in a recent newspaper article, they were “sideshow attractions” and did not fit with the stated purpose of the new state park.
That purpose is now being realized.
Before Oct. 2, 2013, there was Silver River State Park. The entrance to that side of the state park is on Baseline Road/ County Road 35. The mile-long winding road through the woods is lovely and quiet. There are miles of well-maintained hiking trails through woods, wetlands, oak hammocks and sandhill pine environments and an amazing variety of birds, animals and reptiles. There are peaceful Silver River overlooks, the incredible Silver River Museum, a Cracker Village, 57 RV and tent camping sites and 10 cabins for non-campers to rent. There are bicycle trails and equestrian trails under old growth trees. All of this is now part of the Silver Springs State Park, and the two “sides” are connected by a newly blazed trail. The park now totals 4,666 acres.
There is much to enjoy and much to learn here. Educational opportunities abound at the Silver River Museum, at the Education Center on the spring side of the park, and the informative signage along the trails.
There are park ranger-led activities, and events put on by the Friends of Silver Springs State Park. This multifaceted volunteer organization supports the park and the rangers on a daily basis with river patrols, recycling, gardening and more.
They also organize events to bring people into the park, such as the upcoming Phantoms in the Forest on Oct. 17 and the 5K Critter Trail run through the woods on Nov. 15. More information may be found at www.
floridastateparks.org and at www.silversprings.com.
This is not passive entertainment; this is active, healthy and sustainable recreation. This type of recreation enhances the natural environment. We begin to realize that we are part of it, that we love it and that we will care for it and pass it on to the next generation. That is the purpose of a state park.
Barbara Brandon Schwartz
is an acupuncture specialist in Ocala and serves as secretary of the Silver Springs Alliance.
This is not passive entertainment; this is active, healthy and sustainable recreation.