Meet an officer: Our new Vice President is Heather Murphy, a native Floridian born and raised in Eustis. Heather joined The Friends of Blue Spring in 2019, has served on the Membership and Events Committees, and helps manage our social media pages. Heather is a supervisor and case manager for the Agency for People with Disabilities, and is an avid animal lover.
Lights at Night Firefly Event:
WOW, what a magnificent fourteen days of firefly displays - and only two rainouts! The fireflies started flashing around 7:45 p.m. each night and like an orchestra building to a crescendo, their displays first became more spectacular, before fading around 9 p.m. each evening. Most of the fireflies stay close to the ground, but every now and then you might see one flying over your head or up in the trees. Learn more about Florida fireflies here.
The Friends of Blue Spring provided firefly fact sheets, making this event educational as well as fun. Several people asked if there would be a program of some sort, so we may look into doing that next year. While families waited for dusk to arrive, children played on the grounds in front of the Thursby House (rolling down the hill getting up and running to the top again). In addition to glowsticks & wristbands, the Friends also sold manatee-firefly buttons, and modeled our manatee-firefly t-shirts.
We had over 3,000 visitors attending, some from as far away as Tampa, and all entering the park with faces beaming with excitement. From first-timers to repeat customers, many were so impressed that they plan to return again next year. Fireflies usually appear at Blue Spring State Park in late March into early April, so keep an eye on our Facebook page next spring for an announcement about Lights at Night 2023!
Plant of the Month - Cypress
This month we focus on Cypress trees and their knees: Cypress trees can be seen along the shore of the St. Johns River and in the swampy areas throughout Blue Spring State Park. The Bald Cypress is probably the best known of the Florida species; it can be 150 feet high, 56 feet in circumference, and live for more than 3,000 years!
The most noticeable characteristics of cypress are their sloping trunks (much wider at the bottom) and knobby knees. Have you ever wondered what the knees are for? So do a lot of scientists! They are clearly part of the root system, but there are three different theories for their function. Since the cypress grow in low oxygen swamps and the knees stick above the surface, perhaps they are a kind of snorkel for the root system. Or maybe the knees help provide oxygen support to the energy and nutrient transport systems of the tree. Cypress knees could also help stabilize the trees in the soft sediments, much like buttresses. It is amazing that even in the 21st century there are still plenty of basic scientific mysteries to solve. Learn more about cypress trees here.
Cypress images (c) Richard Hatton
The park is open for swimming again, but please keep an eye out for wildlife. Manatees are more common in the spring run during warm months than they used to be. If you are approached, just back away and wait for the manatee to lose interest in you. No matter how much they may seem to want to interact with you, it is against the law for you to interact with them. To keep manatees safe and provide education to park visitors, Blue Spring State Park has partnered with Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, Save the Manatee Club, and Volusia County on the Manatee Observer volunteer program. You will see Manatee Observer volunteers (wearing yellow vests) at the park in a kayak or on the boardwalk where they help prevent harassment and educate visitors about proper behavior around manatees. Learn more about the Manatee Observer program here.
The Commemorative Brick Fundraiser:
Did you ever wonder how you can remember a loved one, celebrate a unique memorable event, honor friends or family, or just provide a unique and fun Blue Spring-themed gift? We have just the thing for you! The Friends of Blue Spring State Park have just started a Commemorative Brick fundraising campaign. The bricks will be laser- engraved with a name or phrase of your choice and installed along the walkway up to the Thursby House, where they will remain for years to come. The proceeds of the campaign will go toward the manatee rescue & release ramp as well as other projects throughout the park. Click here to learn more about the program.
Restoration Phase #3 and the Manatee Rescue & Release Ramp:
You have probably noticed all of the new stone, wire barriers, and changes at the headspring. Don’t be discouraged, the park is making good progress on a very large restoration project, and the first two phases are complete (stabilizing the east side of the headspring and the west bank of the manatee refuge). The project must move slowly due to the need to provide a winter sanctuary to manatees and accommodate summer swimming. Phase #3 (stabilizing the west side of the headspring and planting the headspring with native plants) will end in mid-late 2023 (before the start of the 2023 manatee season), and we are currently working with the park service to have permanent educational signs made about the restoration process.
As soon as all of the restoration work has been completed, the construction access area will be converted into a new manatee rescue and release ramp, with an improved observation area for the public and easier access for manatees being moved in or out of the water. We have been working hard to raise funds to help support the design and construction of the ramp, and thanks to all of you, we are making good progress toward our goal. If you would like to make a donation toward this project, you can do so here. In addition to the Friends of Blue Spring, there are several groups involved with raising money for this project, including Save the Manatee Club and The Florida State Park Foundation.
Becoming a Member:
Would you like to join the Friends of Blue Spring State Park? We can always use more member volunteers to help out with events (Wednesday night Bingo, Water Festival, Christmas Parade, Manatee Festival, Firefly Festival, and many more). Click here to learn more about how you can get involved.
Our Corporate Sponsors:
Are you interested in becoming a corporate sponsor? Let everyone see that you love Blue Spring State Park!
Join the companies below in supporting the park at either the Gopher Tortoise, Scrub Jay, Black Bear, or Manatee level.
Scrub Jay Level
Gopher Tortoise Level