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New wetland recharge park opens in Ocala

Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 5:10 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - The City of Ocala has finished construction of its new Wetland Recharge Park, and it’s not your average park. The thing that makes this park different are three different bodies of water called ‘cells.’

The City of Ocala consumes around 12 million gallons of water per day. Instead of that used water going to waste, the city is recycling it.

The main goal of the park will be to recycle roughly three million gallons of treated waste water, which will flow through the floridan aquifer.
The main goal of the park will be to recycle roughly three million gallons of treated waste water, which will flow through the floridan aquifer.(City of Ocala)

“I would consider it a way to recycle water. So what we’re doing is we’re taking the water that we have because we can’t make new water and we’re treating it in a way that has a positive environmental impact, so we’re taking our treated waste water and we’re sending it to the park, polishing it and reducing those nutrients and giving it straight back down into the aquifer so we’re providing a very clean, very stable form of water back into the aquifer,” Water Resources Conservation Coordinator for the City of Ocala, Rachel Slocumb explained, “to hopefully protect Silver Springs, give some of that water back, maybe help their flows a little bit and help with the nutrient pollution in the springs as well.”

The project broke ground in June 2018. During the construction process, crews were faced with several challenges.

“We didn’t technically have any actual sinkholes. What we had we’re subsurface subsidences which we knew were existing. We are in a lime rock and sand typography out here which is not super stable,” Slocumb added.

But now after two and a half years, the park is finally set to open.

“We’re really excited for everybody to come out and explore this really unique feature in Florida. We’re one of a few wetland parks, one of very few wetland recharge parks so we’re really excited for people to come out and experience the park for themselves and go for a walk,” Slocumb said.

The park will officially open to the public on Monday. The park will be open from sunrise to sunset daily.

The park features education kiosks along two and a half miles of walking trails and scenic boardwalks.

Construction of the park was funded through multiple grants received from the St. John’s River Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Legislative Springs Funding, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Recreation and Trail Program, and Florida Department of Environmental Protection 319 Non-point Source Pollution.

And the park is already quickly expanding city officials said. Coming this winter, a tunnel that visitors can walk under to see what it’s like at the water line of these cells.

A ‘nonpoint source pollution maze’ will also be built to help educate visitors on what they can do to reduce their environmental foot print.

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