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Fla. Asks: Should Silver Springs Be A State Park?

Jessica Palombo

The state of Florida is taking public input on a proposal to turn Central Florida’s Silver Springs attraction into a state park. A public forum on the proposal attracted hundreds of people to an Ocala high school on Wednesday evening.

The Silver Springs land is already owned by the state, but it’s being leased to a private theme park manager. The company, Palace Entertainment, is trying to be let go from its lease, which doesn’t expire until 2029.

At Wednesday’s forum, more than 50 people gave their ideas for the site. Most who spoke, like Audubon of Florida’s Charles Lee, were in favor of a state park with no private management.

“It is time to end that cycle of failure and have this managed in the same way that the rest of our state park system is managed," Lee said.

But several others, including Republican state Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), said they see an economic opportunity in the springs, especially for local Marion County businesses.

If the state decides to make Silver Springs a park, it will hold another public forum to get input on the plan.

For more news updates, follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter @Jessica_WFSU.