Request by Town of White Springs to Acquire Hamilton Co. Parcel #8210-020 State Land Currently Lease by DEP Parks & Recreation, Delegal Building at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, Nature & Heritage Tourism Center, To Implement Phase I Economic Revitalization Plan Based on Cultural Heritage & Eco-Tourism
February 7, 2013
Town of White Springs, Florida’s Original Tourist Destination, has developed an economic revitalization plan based on cultural heritage and eco-tourism. This plan has its foundation in a major economic study conducted by the University of Florida in 2009 for Hamilton County. To test the plan’s economic feasibility, White Springs contracted, in 2011, with the Florida State University’s Institute of Government (IOG). IOG staffer Diane Scholtz prepared the study with the assistance of Dr. Julie Harrington, Director, Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis, who conducted the economic impact data analysis. IOG’s study was highly encouraging, and White Springs has continued to refine and update the plan’s components.
Phase I Economic Revitalization Plan based on Cultural Heritage and Eco-Tourism. The Town’s leadership has engaged citizens in a public process to create a vision for revitalization. In Phase I, the Town is reaching out to the Bureau of Park Planning, recognizing that DEP Parks and Recreation investments are the foundation for our vision. The three State properties we request will permit us to proceed with an integrated foundation for our vision. The three State properties we request will permit us to proceed with an integrated approach that leverages our area’s main attraction, the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center, and begins to fulfill the promise of local public and private sector investment envisioned for the Florida Trail enterprise.
Parcel #8210-020. In 2012, the John C. Camp Family Trust donated a historic structure (original Gulf Oil distributorship) for a regional historic museum dealing with the formation and growth of the tourist industry and collections that define the history of North Florida, beginning with the Native American tribes. Parcel #8219-020 is an excellent site, immediately across US 41 from the south entrance to Stephen Foster State park.
Delegal Building. On February 10, 2013, the Suwannee River Regional Library reopens in White Springs branch in a new building (constructed on land donated to Hamilton County by the Camp Family Trust) Since 1984, the library has been located in the historic Delegal Building at Stephen Foster. Our plan is to license the White Springs Oral History Project being conducted by UF, in the Delegal Building, and utilize Delegal as the work site for UF faculty/students who will examine family/business documents and artifacts donated by the Camp Family and other s for potential inclusion in the Camp Historical Museum collections.
Nature & Heritage Tourism Center. In today’s digital world, tourists and other visitors to Florida plan their trips by accessing internet websites for information and services about natural and man[made attractions. As a result, the role of the Nature & Heritage Tourism Center in serving this function continues to diminish. Both the UF and FSU/IOG economic studies support our assessment that there is more than sufficient demand for a market segment-specific food concession, catering to tourists visiting Stephen Foster. , Big and Little Shoals, the Spring House, Town festivals, and Suwannee Bicycle Association (headquartered in White Springs) events. The Center, reprogrammed as “The Heritage House Restaurant and Event Center, would offer a menu of traditional local foods based on historic recipes for locally grown produce, thereby serving as another mechanism for preserving the cultural heritage of North Florida. Our plan is to recruit a professional chef/restaurant entity, and develop a public-private partnership to convert the Center into a profit making enterprise, thereby creating jobs and additing to the local tax base. This enterprise would leverage, as well as support Stephen Foster, in addition to providing a severely needed economic boost to White Springs. “Heritage House, would continue the Nature & Heritage Tourism Center’s original role by reserving space for a computer kiosk for visitor use about Florida’s Paks, as well as printed brochures about hiking, kayaking and cycling.
Summary. Acquisition of these three State properties by White Springs will empower our small, rural RACEC community to being the process of rebuilding our local economy through public-private partnerships that integrate DEP’s conservation mission and leverage DEP Parks & Recreation’s continuing investments. Our efforts may serve as a model for other rural communities seaching for innovative revitalization approaches.