March 16, 2018. The following letter was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on this date.
Going it Alone
Two major takeaways from the Chronicle’s March 14 front page article concerning the future management of the Three Sisters Springs property are evident. First and foremost, after a year or so of trying, and despite what many had hoped, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and City of Crystal River have failed to agree on a plan for jointly managing the property. It now appears that the future management of the property will be in accordance with one of the two plans submitted by the entities with little, if any, cooperation envisioned between them going forward.
Secondly, while the USFWS claims to have about $1 million in its budget for improvements on the property, the expenditure of which seemingly hinges upon approval of its plan, future USFWS proposals to develop and manage the property are admittedly contingent on the growing uncertainty in the federal budget process which is already resulting in millions of dollars in cuts to related federal agency programs. The USFWS demand in its proposal to begin receiving 30 percent of annual property entrance fees (funds which have been going to the City), reflects its concern over budget uncertainty, and was, no doubt, a deal breaker as far as the City was concerned.
The two sets of development projects for the property proposed by the City and USFWS outlined in the article have much in common, and I continue to believe that either entity can do a good job managing the property separately, if need be. Given the new demand by the USFWS for 30 percent of ticket proceeds, I’ll be shocked if the City doesn’t move forward with its proposed management plan. Requests for State and grant funding will no doubt follow which, I expect, would receive favorable consideration. Whether all or a portion of the existing $1 million in the USFWS budget could be used for development projects on the property, even in the absence of a lead USFWS role, should also be explored.