Saturday, October 8, 2011

Gainesville's Glen Springs



When I was in high school in Gainesville, the practice field behind the school was in big demand, so much so that pre-season soccer practices had to be held at Glen Springs Elementary a couple miles down the road. So our conditioning was aided by the fact that we had to jog down Glen Springs Road before we could even kick the first ball. I always wondered if there was a spring associated with Glen Springs Road, but never saw any evidence of one.

On a recent trip to my hometown, however, I asked Father Ephemera who was a city planner in Gainesville for years, and he knew just where the springs was located. By this time I'd seen vintage postcards of a Glen Springs swimming pool, so I knew at one point there was a recreational facility. My father knew that the pool was still there, behind the Elks Lodge. And we happened to be driving that way so we stopped to see if we could catch a glimpse of the mysterious waters behind the Lodge.

The spring pool was built in 1924 according to a report by Amy Grossman issued in 2010. Used as a swimming pool until 1970, the facility is unused by the Elks except for when it is stocked with fish for a charity fishing tournament for kids. The area just past the Lodge, where the water from the spring forms a creek is now a city park called Alfred Ring Park.

Girl Scouts, Brownies Beauty Contest and water carnival, 1934.
Photo from UF Digital Collections


Car Sale Promotion at Glen Springs swimming pool.
Photo from UF Digital Collections


Vintage postcard from the Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson Museum, Inc.


Vintage postcard from the Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson Museum, Inc.

Vintage postcard from the Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson Museum, Inc.

While my father an I were poking around, a member of the Lodge invited us in to take a look and in addition to seeing the spring we got a history of the Elks Lodge in Gainesville. The structure of the pool looks pretty much the same as it does in the vintage images I found later. The water however, except for the "boil", where it first emerges from the aquifer, looks more like greenish-brown lake water than the crystal clear blue-tinted water one normally associates with a Florida spring. According to the Grossman's report, the water flow is significantly reduced from what it used to be and the nitrogen levels are higher. She states: "As the population in Gainesville has grown, the land use has changed from forested to agricultural to residential. This means an increase in the installment and construction of septic tanks and private drinking water wells as well as an increase in use of fertilizer on lawns. All of these changes in the area have adversely affected the spring."


It was thrill for me to finally discover the spring that I had wondered about for years. It is disappointing that it is unavailable to the public, and that the quality and quantity of the water is diminished. But perhaps the spring could one day return to being a recreational spot for Gainevillians. Grossman writes: "There is an opportunity for revenue from this property, similar to the set-up at Gainesville’s other spring, Boulware Spring. Since the spring pool house is still in good shape with the original flooring from the bar in the 1950’s, a porch that was added on in the 1970’s, and the Elks Lodge next door, the property could be rented out for special events, with the spring being the main attraction. Given the chance, many people would pay to have their wedding next to a spring or host one of the numerous conferences and retreats that come to Gainesville."

14 comments:

  1. Hi Rick,
    I came across your blog today and was amazed to see you quoted me as a reference. I'm glad someone else feels the same way about Glen Spring, hopefully the city will wake up to the possibilities it presents.
    I look forward to exploring your blog, it looks like it's right up my alley.
    -Amy

    ReplyDelete
  2. Amy- I'm so glad I found your report online, it was such a valuable resource. Has there been any change in the situation since last year?

    ReplyDelete
  3. There haven't been any changes that I know of. I am actually about to meet with my professor from that class to talk about submitting the property/report to the county to see what kind of conservation program can be applied to it. Not sure how far we'll get, but it's exciting!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Amy- were the Elks receptive to the idea of the springs becoming a public park?

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Elks member I spoke to is very likely the same one who showed you around. He was pretty open about answering my questions and mentioned that they were interested in selling the property. I haven't spoke to anyone in an official manner, so I'm not sure. But I will let you know if I get any progress with this project.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Amy and Rick. My name is Linda Califf and I am a member of the Elks Lodge. I wanted to bring you both up to date on some progress we are making with the pool and springhead. A small group of us Elks are consumed with the "save the pool" passion. We have had several work days in the pool area and have made remarkable progress. When we first started working in the pool in late June, the water was green, slow moving, and completely consumed with algae blooms. In fact, the algae was so bad that it actually was growing across the surface of the water and the water was not even visible. We started the slow process of "raking" the surface of the pool to remove the floating algae blooms and then on a subsequent pool work day, we were actually in the algae filled water and raking out huge clumps of algae. Each time we worked in the pool, more and more water flow was increased and slowly but surely, the algae began to be under control. We have dug out yards and yards of sand from the retention area of the spring head to increase the water volume at the spill way and have removed lots of plants from around the spring head in an effort to keep more dirt and sand washing back into the retention area. We have been power washing the walls of the pool (which is visible in some of the photos above) and have power washed some of thew concrete walkways. We still have lots of work to do. We are desperately attempting to "save the pool" to the best of our abilities, but we are greatly limited by financial resources. However, hard work, sweat and labor come cheap. I have done extensive research on the spring head, and the pavillion and have even written an informational brochure about the area and have been distributing it to our members and guests in an effort to increase awareness of the pool and the plight that it is in. We want to at least bring the water quality back and have the pool area be a beautiful site to gaze upon. To our credit, we have made great strides in this area. The pool water, which was once green and slimy and barely visible is now crystal clear in the shallow pools and getting better every day in the deep pool. I would be more than happy to show the springs to ANYONE who is interested in seeing it. In fact, I have been conducting tours of the facilities for SFCC students this past semester and it may turn into an every semester field trip for this class. I am excited to talk about the pool, the spring, the old pavillion and even explain how the pool was uniquely constructed and how the valve system works to allow the pool to be completely drained. I am still doing a lot of research on the pool and I am also trying to look into whether there are any grants out there that the Elks Lodge could use to help us with the pool project. If anyone is interested in receiving a copy of my brochure or taking a tour of the facility, please feel free to email me (lindacaliff@att.net). I'll be glad to spread the passion! Let's all keep the faith that the pool can be saved. Linda

    ReplyDelete
  7. Linda here again. Regarding the photo of the Girls Scouts. I don't believe this is our pool but Glenn Springs Colorado. The pool shape is wrong and the surrounding landscape does not match anything similar to the Lodge property.

    Also, Amy commented about someone advising her that we were interested in selling the property. This is not true. At one time, in the very distant past, the Lodge was approached by the city to purchase the property because of the Ring Park which neighbors our property. A suitable deal could not be worked out, so we opted to enter into a "lease" agreement with the City regarding the eastern portion of our parking lot. The city constructed the walkway bridge and several other features of Ring Park so citizens could have access to the park which was not possible until our lease agreement with them. However, since that time, no other talks of
    selling have been mentioned or discussed. We love our building and our fantastic spring fed pool. Now all we have to do is make more folks aware of our pool and it's unfortunate plight and perhaps with a little more awarenss, it can be saved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the Glen Springs information. But, the picture of the girl scouts cannot have been taken in Colorado -- there is Spanish moss hanging from the trees! Look at the color postcard of Glen Springs Pool and Park; the end of the pool that is in the foreground looks to me like where the girl scouts are standing. (Wire fences added in post card, vegetation is different, but pool walls -- heights, angles, size, all look like a good match in the two pictures.)
      Cheers, Paul

      Delete
  8. Amy, please please please keep me posted on anything that you come up with through your class. I am very interested in finding out if there are any resources out there that might help the Elks Lodge save this valuable and historical site in Gainesville. I can provide you with lots more information about the pool so please don't hesitate to contact me. Linda

    ReplyDelete
  9. Linda-thanks for your comments! I'm going to email you- I'd love to return to the Spring when I'm in Gainesville in November.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Amy- I'd love to get your email too so maybe we can coordinate our efforts.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey Rick, please feel free to email me at AmyDGrossman(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  12. blesed the land;father-son-holy spirit

    ReplyDelete