If you’ve been reading my posts over the years, you know I have an affection for the odd, off-beat, weird and funky. Last year I purchased a home. My very first home, in fact. Finally, someplace permanent I can go to at night or after a two-week adventure knowing it’s all mine and I can do whatever I wish with it. I chose to live in North Port located in Southern Sarasota County and the largest city within the County. What makes this city you’ve most likely never heard of so special?
Primarily, it’s home to Warm Mineral Springs. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it’s probably the most significant underwater archaeological site in America. Artifacts dating back to 9,000 B.C. have been retrieved from the Springs and scientists believe it may have archeological artifacts dating back to 30,000 years ago.
Did you read that? Let me repeat.
30,000 years ago.
Warm Mineral Springs pumps out nine million gallons of water a day.
It’s temperature is a constant 87 degrees Fahrenheit making it Florida’s only warm mineral spring.
The springs contains 51 minerals such as magnesium, potassium, sulfur and sodium and has the highest concentration of minerals than any other American spring. Many visitors believe the water has therapeutic properties for joint issues, gastrointestinal illness and skin conditions. My skin always felt soft after a soak and my silver ring would tarnish from the high mineral content. (It would also shine up after a little polishing.)
Visit on any given day and hear a mix of Slavic, German and French languages spoken by swimmers and soakers appreciating the Springs’ therapeutic and calming powers.
It sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? Well, it is. It’s received all sorts of international and national attention. Earlier this year the Huffington Post included it in an article of eight natural spas harnessing nature’s healing powers. The wonder was on my radar several years ago and I included it in an article about visiting Sarasota for Yahoo! Voices and for Suite101 in this Travel Guide to Odd Sarasota post.
Sadly, Warm Mineral Springs will be closing at the end of the day on Sunday, June 30, 2013.
As a City of North Port and Sarasota County resident, I perceive it as an inability to compromise. See, Sarasota County and the City of North Port jointly own the Springs, purchasing it in December 2010. A management company has been taking care of and running the operation. The County and City couldn’t agree what should happen to the Springs. The County has been willing to negotiate and although the North Port Commissioners want to sell this national treasure, they don’t want to sell it to the County. Visit my friend Lucy Tobias’s essay about the closing for more detail.
Where do things stand now? It’s my understanding the County and City have agreed to find a company to temporarily manage the facility but that takes time. Having worked in national parks for a park management company, boy, do I know it takes time to fulfill a concession contract. The current company has decided not to pursue another contract which leaves a gap in service. And since the current company is selling off everything, what concession company is going to want to manage a facility on a temporary basis? They probably won’t see a return on their investment.
It also means 60 full-time, part-time and temporary employees will be unemployed as of Monday, July 1. The Springs has a payroll of $700,000. Depending how long it takes to find a new company, that’s a potential of up to $700,000 that won’t be infused in North Port’s and Sarasota County’s economy on top of the loss in revenue generated by visitors to the Springs. Not only do visitors sleep in area hotels and dine in local restaurants, they fuel their cars, shop at supermarkets and utilize other services. Can the community afford this economic loss?
Ideally, I’d like to see the State of Florida take over and make Warm Mineral Springs a state park. I know that won’t happen in the near future but a girl can dream, right?
The upcoming closure of Warm Mineral Springs could have been avoided but it’s too late for should’ve, could’ve, would’ve of’s. Let’s hope Sarasota County officials and City of North Port Commissioners find a new concession management company quickly so this national treasure can be protected and enjoyed. And then, let’s hope the two governmental bodies can decide on the best long-term plan for Warm Mineral Springs.
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