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Marion County Commission says yes to swimming at Silver Springs State Park

Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 6:29 PM EDT
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SILVER SPRINGS, Fla. (WCJB) - Famous for its glass-bottom boats, and strangely enough monkeys, people from all over the country flock to Silver Springs State Park each year.

“We made a reservation for the glass bottom boat and then we’ll probably walk around and see what else they have to offer,” Judy Matthews from The Villages said as she walked into the park with her family from Ohio.

From boating to kayaking, to canoeing, to hiking, there are dozens of activities you can do at the state park but one Marion County commissioner said he wants to add one more activity to the list - swimming.

Swimming in the spring stopped in the late sixties. Residents and visitors wishing to take a dip in Florida’s crystal clear waters will either have to do so at Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest or Rainbow Springs in Dunnellon. Both are about 45 minutes away from Ocala.

Shortly after swimming was banned from Silver Springs, the water park ‘Wild Waters’ was built in 1978 to try and fill that gap. It was closed in 2016 after management changes. The infrastructure of the park has since been removed.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said that a swimming area would be built at the head spring after Wild Waters closed, but no such project has been completed.

“Commissioner McClain and myself, now Representative McClain, started the process and it’s been one of those things on the [back] burner,” Marion County Commission Chairman Carl Zalak said.

In July 2019, 1.5 million dollars in appropriations was awarded to the project. On May 20th, Zalak penned a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection to keep the process going.

“What would it be like for them to be able to take their kids and grandkids and great-grandkids back to Silver Springs where they swam,” Zalak said.

Zalak said he’s since had a meeting with DEP secretary Shawn Hamilton. Future meetings about construction are also in the works.

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