City of Dunnellon
20750 River Drive,
Dunnellon, Florida 33431
November 21, 2016
Carl Zalak, III, Chairman,
Marion County Board of County Commissioners
601 SE 25th Avenue
Ocala, FL 34471
Larry Steed, Park Manager
Rainbow Springs State Park
19158 SW 81st Place Road
Dunnellon, FL 34432
Chairman Zalak and Mr. Steed,
Please find enclosed home owner association letters representing thousands of households from communities located along the Rainbow River corridor and from Rainbow River Conservation, Inc. Though most of these folks do not live along the river, they care deeply about its protection and preservation. And, they expect their public officials and public agencies to protect their interests regarding the river, as well as their quality of life.
We fully understand that everyone should have access to public resources, like the premier Rainbow River. However, we also understand that unlimited public access to a finite resource is detrimental to that resource, and therefore public access needs to be managed.
We know that the County’s KP Hole Park, Blue Run Park and Rainbow River State Park control the majority of public access to the river corridor. How we manage this dominance of public access is critical to properly protecting the river, and for providing a socially acceptable experience for all recreational users along the river corridor.
The current business models of KP Hole Park and Rainbow River State Park appear to allow for unlimited tuber access to the river for a fee. Based on these business models, this past season along the Rainbow River had a “spring break” atmosphere every weekend. Unlimited tubing along the river corridor overwhelmed every other type of river recreational use, and quite often resulted in a detrimental experience for many recreational users.
In addition, this excessive volume of tuber activity creates public safety issues and public nuisance issues. The Rainbow River communities of Dunnellon, Blue Cove, Rio Vista, Sateke Village and Rainbow Springs do not want the type of tourism that overwhelms the river on summer weekends and holidays. We do not want this premier, outstanding waterway degraded in this manner.
Revenues from these parks should solely support the resource, and enhance the specific parks where the revenue is generated. The Rainbow River should not be used as a “cash cow” to fund better experiences at other parks, while the public experience on this river is a quagmire of congestion, on the river and in our local communities.
The current business models for each park needs to incorporate a “best practices”, eco-tourism model for their park and the river as a whole; A business model that puts the preservation and needs of the Rainbow River first and one that allows all river users a socially acceptable experience along the entire river corridor.
The Rainbow River communities want unified ordinances, unified rules and regulations, and unified law enforcement along the entire river corridor. Our publicly supported parks should reflect these views and provide for them.
This should not be a dispute between various points of view regarding “capacities”. The City, Marion County and the State should cooperate to learn; what is the right balance of socially acceptable outdoor experiences along the river? Revenues from the public tuber operations should support independent, professional studies that can determine a reasonable river carrying capacity, a facility capacity analysis for each park and a social carrying capacity that speaks to the quality of the outdoor experience along the entire Rainbow River.
The Goals of each park management plan should include:
- Promote the protection and preservation of the Rainbow River
- Provide a safe and secure environment along the river corridor
- Provide a quality social experience for all types of recreational users
The management plans of each park should be organized to accomplish the following objectives:
- Establish facility processes that balance the use for all activities, and to preclude one activity from overwhelming other activities
- Ensure that each park facility manages all recreation activities to the capacity levels for which they are safely capable of providing
- Provide for periodic facility, social and physical capacity studies for each park, and the Rainbow River to ensure effective levels of total recreational use, while preserving and protecting the river resources
The City will be updating our operating plan for Blue Run Park to accomplish these goals and objectives. We encourage you to work along with us through the Blue Run Park Advisory Council to provide the quality experience that every resident and visitor deserves, and adopt this management approach.
In summary, the City, County and State Park systems should want the same things that their constituents want, and should work towards providing a management plan that will accomplish the following:
Ensure that every recreational user enjoys their experience all along the river corridor in a safe environment, without interference, while appreciating the natural beauty and the wildlife that is part of the Rainbow River. And, support a community that enjoys the quality of life that comes from living in a natural environment, and protect the natural resources that provide for these outdoor experiences.
So, let’s agree that we will work together, and do what it takes to find out what the appropriate capacities should be, and then agree to manage to those capacities. We look forward to a positive response, and stand ready to partner with you to accomplish what the river, and the public deserve.
Mayor, City of Dunnellon
Billy Woods, Sheriff, Marion County Sheriff’s Office
Mike McQuaig, Chief, City of Dunnellon Police Department
DEP / Aquatic Preserve
Shannon Wright, Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Jennifer Carver, Florida Communities Trust
Southwest Florida Water Management District
State Representative Charlie Stone
State Representative Stan McClain
Pat Gabriel, Chair, Marion County Parks and Recreation Advisory Council
Rainbow River Corridor Activity
Blue Run Park Management Plan