THURSDAY, MAY 8, 2014
Positives • The historic charm of the town. • An excellent location for tourism. • The new library. • An abundance of natural resources. • Walkable downtown. • Prime logistical area with I-75, I-10, US 41 and the railroad. • Two state parks (Stephen Foster and Big Shoals). • Suwannee Bicycle Association headquartered in town. • Public boat ramp. • State hiking trails run through town. • Reopening of Telford Hotel/Restaurant. • Future relocation of old Gulf Oil building in Jasper to White Springs for use as a museum.
Negatives • Low ad valorem tax base, e.g. not enough residents and property values too low. • No signage on major highways directing new visitors to the town. • Not enough marketing of the town. • Lack of services, such as a pharmacy, walk-in clinic, grocery store, education. • Lack of available jobs. • Industrial truck traffic through the middle of town could be a safety issue. • U n d e r – u t i l i z e d farmer’s market at the I- 75 interchange. • Closing of South Hamilton Elementary if plans move forward for consolidation. • Lack of building availability. • Lack of lodging/accommodations. • Lack of town revenue to hire designated full time marketing person for tourism center. Jordan Green from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) was in attendance and he addressed the signage issue (or lack thereof) along the major highways leading into White Springs. He said FDOT had plans in the works several years ago to place decorative signs depicting birding and canoeing trails on I-75 and I-10 that would direct people to White Springs. “We were ready to move forward with those, but we had to get federal highway approval because they were on the interstate system,” said Green. “We coordinated with our folks in Tallahassee and the next thing you know we had to send them to Chicago.” FDOT’s request was denied by the Chicago office, even though FDOT was prepared to maintain the signs, Green explained. He also said he would commit to giving it another shot with the federal highway folks. Inexpensive and doable projects • Improve signage. • Community clean up day (mow, pick up trash, etc.). • Interlocal agreement between Suwannee, Columbia and Hamilton counties to run water/sewer lines out to I-75 interchange. • Create partnership between local businesses to provide discounts to visitors during events. Recommendations • Keep new businesses/structures uniform in line with historic nature of town, such as setbacks for front porches. • Renovate and preserve historic homes. • Add Genoa industrial park to list of assets. • Move town hall to more accessible location on US 41. • Agree on a branding slogan for the town of White Springs. • Utilize free web space on Visit Florida for marketing. • Create more events and activities, such as running competitions and outdoor concerts on weekly basis. • Open more Bed-nBreakfast locations in town to accommodate visitors. • Utilize Delegal Building as a Trail Head and bring in retail businesses; grant funding might be available for restoration. • Work with Windstream to beautify area around their building, which sits next to the Ahmoglee Okalee Park. • Reactivate the “Main Street” program through the Florida Department of State.